FLORENCE – Coming off a bye week, Sumter High School head coach Mark Barnes knew his squad was likely going to have to shake off some rust in Friday’s Region VI-5A opener at South Florence.
It wound up being more than he thought, however, as the Gamecocks committed 14 penalties and had trouble with snapping the ball low most of the night.
Even so, Sumter’s defense forced four turnovers resulting in 10 points and quarterback Zykiem Jackson rushed for 117 yards and threw a pair of TD passes to spoil the Bruins’ homecoming, 31-20.
SHS improves to 5-1 overall and 1-0 in the region while South falls to 1-5 and 0-1. The Gamecocks have a return trip to Florence’s Memorial Stadium next Friday when they take on West Florence.
“There’s no such thing as a bad win,” Barnes said afterwards. “We knew they were a better team than their record because they were getting people back (healthy). But we were just very undisciplined tonight in some of the things we did and that says we’re poorly coached and I’ve got to do a better job. I don’t know if we had many drives where we didn’t jump offsides, have a holding penalty or a snap at our feet. It was just crazy.
“We just weren’t focused on the little things.”
Sumter was assessed a penalty or had a bad snap on all but three drives, with most drives including multiple instances of one or both. Still, the Gamecocks managed to take control of the contest early and were up 17-0 in the second quarter before finishing with a 24-7 halftime lead.
A big part of that came via the defense. Johnathan Butler got things rolling for SHS when he picked off SFHS quarterback Shalique Parks off of a ricochet and made it to the Bruins 17. That set up Roman Childers’ 30-yard field goal midway through the first quarter.
The Gamecock D put an exclamation point on the half when Cooper Mota grabbed a loose ball with just under a minute remaining for an easy 24-yard scoop-and-score. Ronald McGee also had a fumble recovery in the second half and Melvin Lundy picked off a pass as well.
Sumter also shut down South running back Tony McFadden, who had over 200 yards in the game at Sumter last year. He was held to 20 yards on 14 carries.
“Getting the points off the turnovers was big,” Barnes said. “We did a better job on (McFadden) this year, although (Nick Mitchell) popped a couple runs on us and (Parks) bought some time and hurt us on a few plays.
“I thought we played well defensively, but there were a few times we didn’t play with great effort and that’s what bothered me. We didn’t look like we continued to play with effort on both sides of the ball and we’ve got to fix that.”
Mitchell ran for 120 yards on nine carries for the Bruins and got them on board with a 54-yard run in the second quarter. Parks threw for 114 yards and had a touchdown pass in the third quarter. Tyler Quillens also had a TD for SFHS near the end of the game.
Meanwhile the Gamecock offense found some traction with its running game using a combination of Da’Jon Butts, Jonathan Henry and Jackson. Butts ran three times for 50 yards on Sumter’s first TD drive and Henry finished off with a 16-yard run as SHS went up 10-0.
Jackson followed suite in the second quarter on another scoring drive – running four times for 77 yards before finding Jalen Rouse in end zone for a 6-yard strike.
Jackson used his arm in the fourth quarter to all-but seal the game. He was 3-for-3 on the opening drive with the final connection going for 37 yards to Anthony Dinkins-McCall as the Gamecocks grabbed a 31-13 advantage.
“He’s had better nights throwing the ball then he did tonight, and he’d be the first one to tell you,” Barnes said. “But Zykiem’s a winner and he’s going to find a way to get first downs. That drive we needed in the second half we called a lot of draw-type plays and made sure we got first downs.”
Butts wound up rushing for 82 yards for Sumter while Henry had 45.