MANNING — Taylor Lee caught nine passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns as Laurence Manning Academy came away with a 40-19 SCISA 3A victory over Heathwood Hall on Friday at Billy Chitwood Field.
The Swampcats had built up a 32-0 halftime lead, but LMA's offense struggled through much of the second half, fumbling the ball away on three consecutive possessions.
The Highlanders, who fell to 1-4 overall and 0-3 in SCISA 3A in their first season under head coach and former University of South Carolina standout running back Marcus Lattimore, pulled within two scores, 32-19, before a 30-yard Braydon Osteen touchdown run and 2-point conversion run by Burgess Jordan finally put the game out of reach with 4:57 to go.
"Any win is a good win. We're pretty banged up right now, missing a couple of key guys," said LMA head coach Robbie Briggs, whose team moved to 4-1 and 2-1. "Give them a lot of credit. Their kids battled in the second half and we lost focus. You can't turn the ball over inside the red zone two times. We lost focus there and we've just got to take this (win) and move on. We've got a big game in two weeks against Ben Lippen that will have a lot of playoff implications. But you've got to give Heathwood Hall credit; their kids played hard.
"We played real well in the first half. We had a great week of practice. I thought our D-line played outstanding in the first half. I thought our secondary played well. Grayson Dennis stepped up and played well in the secondary and we played a lot of guys tonight. Any time you score 40 points, it's a good night and defensively I thought we played lights out, but you can't give them drives starting off inside the 20."
LMA's defense held the Highlanders to 38 total yards and two first downs in the first half. Both HH first downs — spanning 43 yards — came on the final two possessions of the half.
The Swampcats, who scored 187 points over their first four games, once again got off to a quick start, putting two scores on the board in the game's first four minutes. Brewer Brunson returned the opening kickoff 53 yards to set up the offense at the HHES 38. LMA's quarterbacking duo of Osteen and Jordan both made contributions as Osteen connected with Lee for 23 yards to set up a 14-yard touchdown pass from Jordan to Wyatt Rowland, giving the Swampcats a 6-0 lead with 9:06 on the clock.
Two plays later, Jake Jordan came up with a strip of Highlander running back Brandon McCullough and returned the ball 44 yards for a score, pushing the lead to 12-0 at the 8:06 mark of the opening quarter.
A 49-yard punt return from Grayson Dennis would go for naught as the Swampcat offense failed to take advantage from the HH 27, turning the ball over on downs at the 30. The next two LMA drives, however, would end in the end zone.
The Swampcat defense forced a punt from the Highlanders 20 and a personal foul against HH on the return put the ball at the 35. With another short field to work with, Osteen broke around right end for a 22-yard gain to the 13. Four plays later, Jordan took it in from two yards out for an 18-0 LMA lead with 3:32 left in the first.
After another 3-and-out for the Highlanders, the Swampcats took over at their 37 and took 10 plays to punch it in for another six. Lee caught three passes for 31 yards on the drive, closing with a 12-yard reception from Jordan and an 8-yard scoring pass from Osteen. Jordan ran it in for two on the conversion, making the score 26-0 with 7:35 left in the half.
As the quarter wore on, Briggs began to worry about running up the score. After a Rowland interception of Highlanders quarterback Duffy Beal set up a 32-yard touchdown pass from Osteen to Lee, Briggs called a timeout and instructed Jordan to take a knee on the conversion attempt, leaving the score at 32-0 with 2:27 on the first half clock. Four plays later, Beal fumbled the ball back to the Swampcats at the Heathwood 48, but Jordan once again took a knee twice to run out the clock.
"I've got a lot of respect for their staff, and Coach Lattimore played for my (Citadel) roommate and teammate in college, Everette Sands," said Briggs. "At the same time, you're up 32-0, and it's a fine line. We put 70 points up a couple of weeks ago and got some complaints about scoring too much. It was good for our kids, good for their kids, and I don't think anybody came out with any bad injuries, so I'm thankful for that."
A 45-yard McCullough kickoff return set up the Highlanders at the LMA 37 to open the second half. An 8-play drive, including seven rushes, resulted in the Highlanders' first points of the night. The longest rush went for 12 yards by Davis Bachman to the 17, five plays ahead of a 5-yard Beal pass to Daniel Schmitt that cut the lead to 32-6.
LMA failed to register a first down on its next drive and Osteen, going back for his first punt of the night, ran into trouble. Punting from his own 22, the snap sailed high over Osteen's head and into the end zone, where Wade Allen pounced on it for the second Highlander score in a 2:05 span, Making the score 32-12 with 5:20 left in the third.
Fumbles on the next three Swampcat possessions gave HH the ball at the LMA 45, 10 and 1. The ball was stuck deep in LMA territory for seven plays, with Heathwood fumbling back to the Swampcats before LMA's final two fumbles. After a penalty pushed the ball back to the 6, McCullough lined up in a wildcat for two plays, getting back to the 1 then getting stopped for no gain, before two Beal sneaks. The first was stopped about an inch short of the goal line before Beal finally pushed it over on fourth down. Grayson Tanner's PAT kick made it 32-19 with 10:03 left, but that would be as close as the Highlanders would get.