Mark Barnes referred to it as a coach's best friend."The good thing is you have that game that you won, but you played so poorly you have their (his players) attention," the Sumter High School football head coach said.
And he certainly had that …
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And he certainly had that in his back pocket this week. The Gamecocks went on the road to beat Rock Hill 28-21 despite turning the football over eight times. He said his team knows it has to play better when it travels to Donald L. Crolley Memorial Stadium in Dalzell today to take on Sumter School District rival Crestwood at 7:30 p.m.
"We spent more time on us in practice this week, making ourselves better," Barnes said. "Of course, we prepared for Crestwood and what they like to do both offensively and defensively, but we prepared on what we need to do to play better. The bulk of our time this week was spent on things we need to do to get better."
Crestwood head coach Roosevelt Nelson didn't have the same luxury as Barnes. The Knights went on the road and lost to West Florence 23-0 in their season opener. The final score was a bit deceiving. West Florence, which reached the semifinals of the 5A state playoffs last season, only led 14-0 entering the fourth quarter. An interception return for a touchdown and a late field accounted for the final score.
"We did OK defensively, but there is still plenty of room for improvement," Nelson said. "We're playing eight sophomores on defense, so we knew there was going to be some bumps and bruises, and there were a bunch of bruises the other night."
Nelson said his defense will face a tough task against SHS.
"We have to come with our A game. We can't come out any other way because Sumter is an outstanding football team," Nelson said. "They've weapons at all of the skill positions. They are going to be a tremendous challenge for us."
Sumter had 256 yards of total offense and was obviously hampered by the eight turnovers. Quarterback Hayden Vasquez completed 11 of 21 passes for 166 yards and one touchdown against three interceptions.
Georgia Southern wide receiver commitment Tony Dinkins-McCall, North Carolina commitment Tylee Craft and Marcus Lane accounted for all of Sumter's completions. Dinkins-McCall had five catches for 67 yards, Lanes had four for 80 and one TD, and Craft had two for 19.
Sumter had just 90 yards rushing, but Justice Wells accounted for 73 of them on 17 carries.
Barnes said his players know they cannot continue to play like it did on offense against Rock Hill and hope to have a successful season.
"We know we have to play a lot better moving forward," Barnes said. "There are a lot of things we have to correct, but they are correctable. That's the good thing."
The Gamecocks had a tremendous defensive game, limiting Rock Hill to 131 yards of total offense. The Bearcats had 67 rushing yards and 64 passing yards. SHS had 17 tackles for 71 yards in losses, including seven quarterback sacks for 43 yards.
"Our defense played tremendous," Barnes said. "One of their touchdowns came after they recovered a fumble at our 1-yard line, and another was an interception return for a touchdown. So they just drove the ball for a score once. We were super aggressive on defense and were a very resilient group. The defense pretty much refused to allow them to score."Crestwood struggled on offense against West Florence. The Knights were limited to less than 100 yards of total offense, had five 3-downs-and-out series and turned the ball over three times.
"We've got to get better at first down execution,"Nelson said. "We found ourselves in a lot of second-and-15, second-and-12 situations, and that makes it very tough on an offense. We also have to cut down on our turnovers."
Nelson knows his team faces a tough challenge against Sumter, which is ranked seventh among 5A schools in the S.C. Prep Media Football Poll. However, the Knights won't be doing anything out of the ordinary.
"We just have to do what we do, and do it better than them," he said. "They know what we do, so we can't go out there and reinvent the wheel."
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