Wyatt Rowland and Tylee Craft were instrumental figures in many realms in helping their football teams to victory last week.
Rowland had 13 carries for 131 yards and two touchdowns, caught one …
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Rowland had 13 carries for 131 yards and two touchdowns, caught one pass for 38 yards and had 115 yards in return yards, including a 95-yard kickoff return for a score, in Laurence Manning Academy’s 39-31 overtime win over First Baptist in Charleston.
Craft, the senior wide receiver for Sumter High School, had 102 yards in returns, including an 85-yard kickoff return for a TD, and had four catches for 94 yards and another score in the Gamecocks’ 58-6 win over Lugoff-Elgin in Sumter.
“He’s doing a phenomenal job for us,” LMA head coach Austin Floyd said of Rowland. “We’re having to be creative to get him the ball because the other teams are focusing on him. When you’ve got someone who can catch the ball and run the ball like he can, it makes your job easier.”
“He changes the game in so many ways,” SHS head coach Mark Barnes said of Craft. “He makes teams change the way they do things to account for him beyond him catching the football, and that opens things up for other players. That’s the highest compliment you can pay a player.”
That and being named The Sumter Item Player of the Week. Rowland was selected as the Offensive Player, while Craft is the Special Teams Player.
Craft’s teammate, Sterling Porcher, is the Offensive Lineman of the Week, while Lake City’s Khalil Fulton is the Defensive Player of the Week.
Players are selected based on nominations from local high school coaches. Selections are made by The Sumter Item sports staff
The quartet will be honored at the weekly breakfast meeting of the Sumter Touchdown Club presented by FTC on Friday beginning at 7:15 a.m. The meeting takes place at the University of South Carolina Sumter's Arts & Letters Building.
Furman University head coach Clay Hendrix will be the guest speaker on Friday.
OFFENSE – WYATT ROWLAND LAURENCE MANNING
Rowland has been steady for the Swampcats both running the football and catching it. Floyd said his senior has over 500 yards both in receiving and rushing and has scored six touchdowns both running and catching the ball.
Rowland gives credit to his offensive linemen and the coaching staff for helping him be successful.
“Our blocking schemes against First Baptist were really good,” Rowland said. “They did a good job, and that gave me a chance to make something happen.
“Each week the coaches come up with a couple of new plays, both run plays and pass plays, to give opportunities to not only me, but other players as well.”
Rowland’s kickoff return for a score came at a major point in the game. First Baptist had just gone up 14-3 when Rowland picked up the football at his 5-yard line and took it back for the touchdown to help Laurence Manning regain the momentum.
SPECIAL TEAMS – TYLEE CRAFT SUMTER
Craft’s kickoff return for a touchdown came at an opportune time for Sumter, just in a different manner.
Lugoff-Elgin had just scored early in the second quarter to make it 16-6. Any hopes the Demons had of making it a game were quickly dashed though when Craft picked up the football off the ground on the SHS 15 on the visitor’s side of Memorial Stadium, reversed it to the Sumter sideline and turned the corner to go all the way for the score.
“It was a short ball, and I got and went the other way to try and turn it up the sideline,” Craft said. “Our blocking was set up that way, and I was just trying to get there so I could use it.”
It seemed as though it took as long for Craft to reverse his field and turn the corner as it did for him to make the dash down the Sumter deadline to paydrit.
“I eventually thought so,” Craft said with a laugh when asked if he ever thought he’d be able to make the turn down the field.
OFFENSIVE LINEMAN – STERLING PORCHER SUMTER
Porcher picked up Offensive Lineman honors for the second time this season. He graded out at 80 percent with one knockdown block in the Gamecocks’ rout of L-E. Sumter had a balanced offensive attack, rushing for 198 yards and passing for 191.
While SHS has been a big play offense all season, it appeared to put more of an emphasis on the running game against Lugoff. Porcher said that was by design.
“We tried to be a little bit more physical against them because of what they do defensively,” Porcher said of L-E’s blitzing, aggressive style of defense. “I thought we did a good job against that.
“(That style of play) doesn’t really affect what you do (as an offensive lineman),” he added. “As long as you do everything you’re supposed to do, take the right steps, you will do good.”
DEFENSE -- KHALIL FULTON LAKE CITY
Fulton had 15 total tackles in Lake City’s 21-14 victory over Loris last week in its Region VI-3A opener. The senior had 15 total tackles -- four solo stops, six assists, two quarterback sacks and three tackles for loss
“Khalil was a very integral part of us pulling out the win at Loris,” said Lake City head coach Ronnie Baker. “He made a lot of crucial third-down plays behind the line of scrimmage for us.
He’s our leader in tackles, sacks and tackles for loss.”
The 6-foot-2-inch, 220-pound Fulton said he was trying to make a statement as the Panthers opened region play.
“It’s my senior year, my first region game as a senior, and I was wanting to step up,” Fulton said. “I was using my pressure, my speed, to get in the backfield.”
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