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Dominating defense: Sumter High shuts down Northwestern in 40-0 win

BY EDDIE LITAKER
Special to The Sumter Item
Posted 9/20/19

No matter what team lines up against it, Sumter High School's defensive unit continues to dominate.After a 40-0 homecoming victory over Northwestern on Friday at Sumter Memorial Stadium in which Gamecock defenders closed the game with five …

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Dominating defense: Sumter High shuts down Northwestern in 40-0 win

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No matter what team lines up against it, Sumter High School's defensive unit continues to dominate.After a 40-0 homecoming victory over Northwestern on Friday at Sumter Memorial Stadium in which Gamecock defenders closed the game with five interceptions, Sumter has now shut out its last two opponents and only allowed one offensive touchdown while starting the season a perfect 4-0.

"I'm proud of our players," said Sumter head coach Mark Barnes. "I challenged them before the game tonight to understand that this is a different level that we were playing tonight other than some of the teams we've played so far in our schedule, and we looked dominant on both sides of the ball. We made some mistakes in the passing game, but we threw the ball well and we had some explosive plays. The group I thought really played good for us is our offensive line. We blocked a good front tonight at times, and our defense has been good all year and was really good tonight."

The defense made its mark early as Northwestern quarterback John Duran's first pass attempt was snagged by O'Donnell Fortune on the first offensive play of the night. The Gamecocks took over at the Trojans' 31-yard line, and seven plays later Nathan Harris-Waynick took it in from two yards out for a 7-0 lead.

Sumter led 24-0 at the half, with Tony Dinkins-McCall once again proving his versatility by passing to Jordan McGee for a 20-yard scoring play, and McGee adding an 18-yard touchdown reception from Gamecock quarterback Hayden Vasquez. Placekicker Dyson Roberts showed off his leg strength with a 42-yard field goal at the 1:35 mark to close out the first-half scoring.

The Vasquez touchdown pass to McGee was set up by a Jabari Tiller interception. The teams swapped picks in the final minute of the half, Davin Jackson intercepting Duran before Vasquez turned it back over to Key'shard McCrorey two plays later.

One area that was a negative for Sumter was penalties, with 12 flags costing the Gamecocks 120 yards. One of those flags, for a holding infraction, cost Sumter a touchdown on its opening drive of the second half. Roberts turned the negative into a positive with his second field goal of the night, this one good from 34 yards, for a 27-0 lead with 8:32 to go in the third.

Harris-Waynick broke off a 25-yard scoring run later in the third, leading to a back-and-forth segment to open the final quarter. The teams swapped three interceptions in an 8-play sequence, with Tiller registering his second pick of the night and Kameron Pearson coming away with a one-handed interception grab that got the Gamecocks out of a jam following a Deuce McCrorey interception of Vasquez.

Immediately following the Pearson INT, Dinkins-McCall sprinted for 50 yards to move Sumter from its 10 to the Northwestern 40. Eight plays later, Harris-Waynick was in the end zone for a third time, this time from two yards out, for the Gamecocks' final score of the night.

Barnes said finishing with another shutout was a point of pride for his defensive unit.

"We believe in playing great defense here," Barnes said. "We put people over there for a reason. We put some good players over there and our defensive coaching staff does a great job of coaching them and having them prepared every week. We made them look bad tonight on offense, and they're not. They're not bad. Our defense played really well."