The message was heard loud and clear.
After being reminded of its gut-wrenching 29-28 overtime loss to Lexington High School at home n the first round of the 5A football state playoffs last season, Sumter High made sure history didn’t repeat itself on Friday at Memorial Stadium’s Freddie Solomon Field.
The Gamecocks, led by a 203-yard rushing effort by running back Jonathan Henry, scored on five of their six possessions in the first half of their state playoff game against White Knoll on the way to a 35-7 halftime lead that ended up being the final score.
Sumter advances to the second round and will hit the road to take on Summerville next week. The Green Wave defeated Irmo 29-7 on Friday.
“(Head) Coach (Mark Barnes) talked to us before the game about remembering what it felt like after last year,” Henry said. “He told us we needed to be hungry when we went on the field tonight. I think we were hungry.’
SHS received the opening kickoff and seven 55 yards in seven plays. Henry had 38 of the yards on four carries, but running back Da’jon Butts went the final nine yards for the touchdown. After a 5-yard penalty, the extra point attempt was missed, leaving the score at 6-0 with 9:57 left in the first quarter.
“We came out and took charge on both sides of the ball from the very beginning,” said Barnes, who saw his team improve to 9-2 on the season. “We were the more physical team tonight, and that’s what we needed to be. I thought when the game was in the balance we played very well.”
Sumter had 302 yards of total offense in the opening half, 227 of it coming on the ground. Henry was responsible for 157 of it on 18 carries.
Meanwhile, the defense gave up just 116 yards of total offense and only 25 of those came on in the ground. Fifty-nine of those yards came on one play – a touchdown pass from quarterback Aveon Smith to wide receiver Keon Clary early in the second quarter to pull the Timberwolves within 21-7 early in the second quarter.
“I thought we did a good job defensively, especially in the first half,” Barnes said. “We were really getting after it. We’ve got to do a better job of taking down the quarterback when we get to him, but we played really well.”
After going three downs and out on its second possessions, the Gamecocks were set up with a short field when linebacker Antonio Roach recovered a fumble at the WK 32-yard line. SHS was in the end zone in six plays with Henry doing the honors this time, going in from nine yards out. Butts ran for the 2-point conversion to make it 14-0 with 3:55 left in the first quarter.
The next Sumter got the ball it went 64 yards in nine plays. Anthony Dinkins-McCall took a direcet snap and went in for the touchdown. Roman Childers added the extra point to make it 21-0 with 10:46 left in the first half.
After the White Knoll touchdown, quickly regained any lost momentum when quarterback Ontra’ Harvin connected with Dinkins-McCall for a 54-yard TD pass.
Henry scored the final touchdown on a 14-yard run. He finished with 203 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. He also gathered in two flick passes from Harvin for 37 yards.
“I give all the credit to the play calling and the offensive line,” said Henry, who was playing behind the starting offensive line for the first time in several weeks due to injuries. “I just tell my linemen that if they open me a hole I’ll get through there.”
“Jonathan is an example of someone who has grown up,” Barnes said. “He just continues to work hard to improve himself as a player.”