In football, committing eight turnovers is not usually a recipe for success.Yet Sumter did just that on Friday, including turnovers on seven consecutive possessions at one point, and was able to overcome that sizable handicap to claim a 28-21 …
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In football, committing eight turnovers is not usually a recipe for success.Yet Sumter did just that on Friday, including turnovers on seven consecutive possessions at one point, and was able to overcome that sizable handicap to claim a 28-21 season-opening victory over Rock Hill at District Three Stadium Rock Hill.
"Tonight was one of the most frustrating nights of coaching that I've ever been involved with," said Sumter head coach Mark Barnes. "But you have to credit our defense, because we turned it over (so many) times and still won. ... We just didn't block. We didn't block in the running game, we didn't block in the passing game. We had things that were wide open, and we didn't have time to get to them and everybody started panicking. I've been back there, and when it starts happening like that you start rushing everything and you make some poor decisions. But in the end, we won."
For the second consecutive Friday, Sumter was facing a lightning delay before its scheduled start time and hoping to take the field for action.
The Gamecocks, whose scheduled matchup against Dutch Fork in the Sumter Sertoma Football Jamboree two Fridays ago by lightning and a subsequent thunderstorm, were waiting out the elements.
After a few lightning occurrences around the stadium area added time to the initial 30-minute delay of the scheduled 7:30 p.m. start, the contest kicked off at 8:52 p.m., with Tony Dinkins-McCall taking the opening kick on a bounce and returning it 85 yards to give the Gamecocks a quick 6-0 lead. The subsequent point-after kick attempt was unsuccessful after a bad snap.
Rock Hill failed to gain a first down on its initial possession and ran into trouble on the subsequent punt attempt. Deshawn McKnight broke through the line for the block, with O'Donnell Fortune scooping up the football and returning it 12 yards for the score. Jordan McGee added the 2-point conversion run to push the lead to 14-0 with about a minute off the clock.
Sumter's defense kept constant pressure on Rock Hill quarterback Kobe Thurmond, resulting in another quick punt. This one traveled just five yards, giving the Gamecocks excellent field position at the Bearcat 48. Four plays later, Sumter quarterback Hayden Vasquez found Marcus Lane for a 29-yard touchdown pass, pushing the Gamecocks' lead to 21-0.
That lead would hold through the end of the first quarter, with Rock Hill managing just one first down in that span. Sumter began the second with excellent field position and drove deep before the Bearcat defense held at the 3. A bad snap on a heavy package play with Wells taking the snap resulted in a 28-yard loss, giving Rock Hill possession at its 31. The Bearcats later cut the lead to 21-7 on a 14-yard pass from Thurmond to Anthony Arnette.
The Gamecocks would maintain that lead heading into the break, despite turning the ball on each of their final three possessions of the half and being whistled for 11 penalties.
Those late offensive struggles would be a harbinger of future events as Sumter turned the ball over on its first four possessions of the second half. The first came on a muffed punt, with the Bearcats taking over at the Sumter 23. Rock Hill would gain on first down and advance the ball to the Sumter 9 before fumbling it back to the Gamecocks.
Sumter took over at it 8 and managed one first down on a roughing the quarterback penalty but would lose the ball three plays later on a bad snap as Rock Hill took over on the Gamecocks' 29. The Bearcats went backwards, losing five yards on three plays, before punting the ball and pinning Sumter at its 10. After a 12-yard completion from Vasquez to Tylee Craft gave the Gamecocks a first down and some breathing room, the next play saw a Rock Hill defender scoop up a fumble and return it for 10 yards to the 12. Once again, the Sumter defense saved the day as the Bearcats could not make a first down and turned it over on downs at the 3.
Forced to pass from his own end zone on third down and 12 yards to go from the 1, Vasquez was picked off by Tylik Edwards, who returned the pick 16 yards for a score. A successful PAT kick pulled the Bearcats within seven, 21-14, near the end of the third quarter.
Vasquez was intercepted late in the fourth quarter and the ball was returned to the Sumter 1. Thomas Neff took it in on the next play, tying the score at 21-21 with about four minutes on the clock.
Dinkins-McCall would prove to be the difference in the game on Sumter's game-winning 70-yard drive with a 19-yard rush and 43-yard pass reception from Vasquez. The winning score would come from the heavy package as Miles Capers took a handoff at the 5, fumbled the ball forward and was able to recover his own fumble in the end zone with 2:28 remaining.
Vasquez completed 11 of 21 passes for 166 yards and one touchdown against three interceptions. Dinkins-McCall had five catches for 67, and Lane had four for 80. Justice Wells rushed for 73 yards on 17 carries.
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