The Aynor Blue Jackets jumped out to a two-touchdown lead at the half and then held on to defeat the St. James Sharks 36-29 Friday.
The win boosts the Blue Jackets to a 4-0 record heading into region play next week against 4-1 Cheraw. The Sharks (3-2) begin 5A region play Friday at South Florence.
Aynor scored first on a 72-yard drive late in the first quarter, staying mostly on the ground. Their second score came in the waning seconds of the half with a spectacular catch and run by senior Riley Phipps, who also made a highlight reel grab earlier in the drive.
St. James had a couple of long runs negated in the first half by fumbles and they headed into the halftime trailing 16-0.
But the St. James offense came alive in the third quarter, grinding out long gains and hitting some key passes that seemed to fire up the Shark defense. With the Blue Jacket offense sputtering, the Sharks headed into the fourth quarter only down 22-15.
It took less than two minutes into the final period for the Sharks to tie the score at 22-22 and bring the home crowd to life. But the Blue Jacket defense showed its quickness, getting into the backfield several times and forcing more turnovers.
With a little less than eight minutes left in the game, Aynor moved the score to 28-22 and added another TD with just over two minutes left to make it 36-22. With just under a minute left in the contest, St. James scored making it 36-29, but their onside kick that followed was snagged by the Blue Jackets.
Aynor head coach Jason Allen told his team after the game that this win was one of the proudest games of his coaching career.
After an emotional win over Green Sea Floyds last week, Allen wasn’t sure how his team would react going on the road against a 5A opponent.
“This team showed a toughness tonight that’s going to make it a special team this season,” Allen said “We faced some adversity tonight, especially in the third quarter when our offense couldn’t get much going. But our defense kept us in it.”
Next week starts a new season, Allen said, as his Blue Jackets begin region play on the road at Cheraw.
“It doesn’t get any easier,” he said.