BLYTHEWOOD - Blythewood High School may not have put a scare in the Sumter football team on Friday, but the Bengals made the Gamecocks work.
Hayden Vasquez and Sumter built a 14-0 lead, sputtered on offense until a score just before the half, but …
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Hayden Vasquez and Sumter built a 14-0 lead, sputtered on offense until a score just before the half, but otherwise held off the Bengals for a 28-7 victory at Richland District Two Stadium.
Vasquez was 15-for-24 for 110 yards, and rushed 7 times for 21 yards and a touchdown.
"We didn't play very good tonight. I thought our defense played pretty good tonight," said Sumter head coach Mark Barnes. "Our defense kept them out of the end zone, but we gave up some third-down and fourth-down plays. But you gotta give them credit for that. I think their quarterback did a great job, but I think both teams lost some steam when their quarterback went down in the second half."
Sumter, which improved to 7-0 overall and 2-0 in Region IV-5A, was ranked fifth among 5A teams in the most recent S.C. Prep Media Football Poll. It never struggled against Blythewood, 5-3 and 1-1, but the Gamecocks got into a lull, Barnes said.
"We've got an opportunity to be a great football team," he said. "That's why I was so disappointed. I mean, we won 28-7, but we didn't do a good job in the second half offensively."
Blythewood starting quarterback Josh Strickland didn't start the second half and spent the rest oft the game with his helmet off in the company of a trainer. He was 15-for-26 for 131 yards and an interception.
King Ford came on in relief of Strickland and was 6-for17 for 34 yards and an interception.
Sumter stopped Blythewood's game-opening drive and responded with an 11-play, 63-yard drive capped with an 11-yard Vasquez touchdown run at the 4:16 mark of the first quarter.
The Gamecocks got the ball right back when Jabari Tiller picked off a fading pass from Strickland at midfield and returned it 43 yards to the Blythewood 6-yard line. Nathan Harris ran in for a score at the 2:53 mark of the first to put Sumter up 14-0.
Blythewood responded with a 10-play, 77-yard drive for its only score of the half, which came on Strickland's 23-yard touchdown pass to David Patten on fourth down and 12 yards to go with two seconds left in the first quarter.
The Bengals looked to even the score, forcing Sumter to punt twice in the second quarter. On each possession, Blythewood turned the ball over on downs deep in Sumter territory.
When the Bengals gave the ball up at the Blythewood 40-yard line late in the second quarter, Sumter's Anthony Dinkins-McCall took off on a 35-yard run that set up a a second Harris TD run from two yards out four plays later. With that score, Sumter took a 21-7 halftime lead.
Both teams battled through a scoreless third quarter. With Strickland out, Sumter's Zyeir Gamble picked off a Ford pass early in the period. A lost Blythewood fumble late in the quarter led to Harris' third score of the day, a 1-yard TD run with 11:28 left in the game.
Blythewood caught a late break when Chase Ishmael recovered a botched punt that set the Bengals up at the Sumter 19-yard line with nine minutes to play. That possession led to a first-and-goal situation, but Sumter managed a goal-line stand at the 5:36 mark.
Sumter plays at Spring Valley on Friday.
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