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COLUMBIA - The Sumter High School football team had a region title at its fingertips on Friday, needing a win over Spring Valley on Friday at Harry Parone Stadium to win the Region IV-5A title outright.
Spring Valley aired the football out though, and it was all the Gamecocks could do to hold on to a 30-28 victory.
"I'm not happy with the way we played, that might be who we are, who knows?" Sumter head coach Mark Barnes said. "But we won. We are region champions for the second year in a row. We've got to address some things on both sides of the ball."
SHS, ranked fifth among 5A schools in the S.C. Prep Media Football Poll, stayed unbeaten, improving to 8-0 overall and 3-0 in region play.
Spring Valley, which dropped to 4-5 and 1-2, threw up 488 yards passing as DeQuandre Smith went 26-for-40 with no interceptions.
Without the services of leading rusher Anthony Dinkins-McCall, who is out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, the Gamecocks instead relied on the heavy-duty rushing attack of Nathan Harris-Waynick.
Harris-Waynick rushed 26 times for 255 yards and two touchdowns. His first-half effort pushed the Gamecocks to a 28-14 lead at intermission, which negated Spring Valley's two touchdowns on 277 yards passing in the first half.
"I told the team that the guy I was worried about was Nate," Barnes said. "He hadn't played a lot, and he played his tail off. Now we've got to get some other guys to play their tail off."
Sumter had 345 rushing yards to Spring Valley's one net rushing yard. The Gamecocks also passed for 110 yards. Hayden Vasquez was 8-for-19 with an interception.
The fourth quarter was especially a gut check for SHS.
With the Gamecocks up 28-14, Smith found Manny Moore for a 72-yard catch- and-run touchdown play at the 9:02 mark to make it 28-21.
The Gamecocks likely thought the deal was sealed with a safety with 2:44 to go to make it 30-21, but Spring Valley recovered an onside kick on the free kick. Smith struck again with a high bomb to Elijah Byant, who caught it around the 10-yard line and walked in for the score with 1:03 left.
Fortunately for the Gamecocks, they recovered the onside kick and let the clock run out.
"We won," Barnes said. "But we did a horrible job tonight containing their quarterback, He ran around all night long making big plays. He made us look silly tonight."
The first quarter was anything but pretty for the Gamecocks.
While Vasquez and Sumter went 0-for-6 in passing over its first three possessions, Spring Valley opened up quickly with its pass-first offense.
Smith hit paydirt on two long touchdown strikes to Moore and Quanta Jackson. Smith's 38-yarder to Moore opened up the scoring.
Vasquez put Sumter on the board with a 45-yard scoring dash on a fourth-and-inches quarterback sneak, but Smith found Jackson from 50 yards out to put the Vikings up 14-7 at the 4:42 mark of the first quarter.
Just as it appeared as though Spring Valley's air raid was going to put the Gamecocks on ice, the Sumter defense clamped down. The Vikings passed for 241 yards in the first quarter, but the Gamecocks upped the pressure on Smith and held him to 37 passing yards in the second quarter.
On offense, Sumter scrapped the air attack and went straight for the run.
Miles Capers scored from five yards out three minutes into the second quarter, but Dyson Roberts' point-after attempt failed.
The Gamecocks sprung Harris-Waynick on four long runs in the second quarter, as the smashmouth replacement for Dinkins-McCall carried 12 times for 187 yards and two touchdowns in the first half alone.
His first score came on a 25-yard run with 5;21 left in the second quarter. Vasquez's 2-point conversion pass to Deshawn McKnight made it 21-14.
Harris nearly duplicated his first score with one two minutes later, from 29 yards out to give Sumter a 28-14 lead.
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