Stallions' late run foils Vols’ postseason hopes

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By Kim Roberts

KERSHAW Lee Central foiled Andrew Jackson’s playoff hopes, edging the Volunteers, 26-23 in the final Region IV-AA regular-season football game for both teams Friday night.

The Stallions’ win forced a three-way tie among Eau Claire, Lee Central and AJ. The Vols needed a win, or a loss of one-point to the Stallions to advance to the playoffs. Eau Claire will be seeded fourth, while AJ and Lee Central remain at home.

It looked as if the Vols would cruise when junior quarterback Darrien Henderson capped a four-play, 33-yard drive with a 12-yard touchdown run with 8:54 left in the first period. Tyler Denkins converted the extra point for a 7-0 lead.

LC responded with a 59-yard Shaquil Loveley to Darron Wilson TD pass with 7:41 left in the first.

“There were three key plays tonight that were pivotal for us,” AJ coach Elmer Bench said. “We had a busted coverage on this particular play and their QB made a good throw for the TD.”

LC’s Manshon Holmes picked off a Henderson pass and returned it 25 yards to the AJ 40. Six plays later, Lovely slid into the end zone from the three to give the Stallions a 14-7 lead with 1:19 left in the first quarter.

AJ senior defensive back Ryan Miller snared a Lovely pass and raced 13 yards to the LCHS 40 to set up the final score of the half. The Vols drove down to the Stallions’ three-yard line and summoned Denkins to hit a 20-yard field goal on the last play of the half. Lee Central led 14-10 at the break.

After a Dylan McKittrick fumble recovery late in the third quarter, Henderson found Miller on a textbook fade pass play for a 20-yard touchdown to propel the Vols into the lead. The extra-point failed and AJ led 16-14 with 1:47 left in the third.

Lee Central immediately answered with an 84-yard kickoff return by Jaleel Albert to the AJ six.

A horse collar penalty on AJ moved the ball to the Vols’ three.

Antwon Henry bolted in from the three for the go-ahead score. Lovely was tackled short of the goal on the two-point conversion and LC led 20-16 with 1:27 left in the third.

Midway the fourth quarter, LCHS end Darron Wilson scooped up an AJ fumble at the Volunteer two and rolled into the end zone for the TD. A missed PAT upped the LCHS lead to 26-16 with 6:15 left.

Two series later, AJ freshman Gavin Clyburn electrified the stadium with a 60-yard touchdown punt return. Denkins’ extra point sliced the Stallions’ lead to 26-23 with 2:43 left. The Vols’ last chance to win began at the AJ 27 with 49 seconds left. AJ moved to the Vols’ 39  before surrendering the ball on downs.

Henderson was the AJ leading rusher with 54 yards on 23 attempts. Trent Flowers added nine yards on eight carries.

Henderson was 14-37 passing for 185 yards and one TD. Miller caught six passes for 92 yards and a TD. William Clyburn snared three passes for 50 yards. Quincy Greer had two catches for 25 yards. Trent Flowers had two receptions for 18 yards.

“We had three key plays that directly affected the outcome,” Bench said. “The missed coverage on their first TD, drops of TD passes by our team and a missed kickoff coverage after we had taken the lead.”

Bench said work for the Vols’ future will begin soon.

“We will immediately implement an intense weight-lifting program,” Bench said. “We will get the job done.”

AJ, with four straight losses, finished 3-7, 1-4.