Conway returned to its roots Friday night and used a punishing ground attack to trip defending region champion West Florence by a 41-38 score at E. Craig Wall Jr. Memorial Stadium.
The Tigers hit the Knights with a 1-2 running punch featuring Donovan Singleton and Michael James.
In addition to running for 178 yards, Singleton recovered an onside kick by the Knights with 30 seconds remaining to cement the victory.
The win was Conway’s first of the season and the first time the Tigers reached double figures in scoring in six games.
“Our guys fought hard and won this game,” Conway coach Carlton Terry said. “It was on them. I’m extremely proud of our guys. The hard work we’re putting in is starting to pay off.”
West Florence coach Jody Jenerette, who is a former Conway assistant, said the Tigers decided to play Conway football during his return.
“They were physical upfront and we couldn’t handle them,” Jenerette said. “They pushed the pumpkin and there was nothing we could do but take it.”
Conway drew first blood after Al-JaQuan Washington intercepted a pass by the Knights’ George Floyd.
After drawing an encroachment penalty to convert a fourth down and four play at the WFHS 12, James went the final three yards to give Conway the early lead with 1:53 remaining in the opening quarter. Chris Dewitt was true on the conversion kick.
West Florence responded with a 60-yard scoring march. Quarterback Hale Emerson connected with Dylan Snyder for 14 yards and the touchdown with 9:51 remaining before halftime. Steven Snell booted the PAT to tie the game.
The Knights recovered an onside kick and took a 10-7 advantage when Snell’s 30-yard field goal attempt hit the right crossbar and bounded inside the uprights at the 7:29 mark.
Undeterred, freshman quarterback Jabravion Woodward drove the Tigers down the field, and raced 25 yards down the home sidelines to convert a fourth-down play into a touchdown with 3:56 remaining.
Woodward started the game in Carlton Terry’s place, and made several big plays.
“Carlton was injured last week against Myrtle Beach,” coach Terry said. “He was ready to go if needed. I’m proud of my little man (Woodward). He came in and managed the game. He did some good things.”
After forcing a West Florence punt, Conway used a double pass to double the score at halftime.
Woodward took the snap, and tossed the ball to Terry along the sideline and Terry found a streaking Xavier Kinlaw to complete a 50-yard scoring play with 1:31 remaining. Dewitt missed the extra point, making the score 20-10 at intermission.
West Florence opened the scoring in the second half, taking advantage of a short field following a Conway fake punt to pull within 20-17 on Nyke Johnson’s 11-yard scoring run with 5:51 remaining in the third quarter.
Conway answered when James went one yard with 10:21 remaining in the game to give the Tigers a 27-17 lead.
The visitors cut the deficit to 27-24 when Emerson ran 50 yards on the first play after the kickoff with 10:06 left.
Conway drove 65 yards to take a 34-24 lead on Singleton’s 25-yard jaunt with 7:30 remaining.
“Forty (Singleton) did a great job setting up blocks and finishing runs,” Terry said after the game. “He’s got a bright future.”
West Florence refused to go away, pulling within 34-30 on Terry McKeithan’s 33-yard scoring run at the 5:40 mark.
Conway then used more than four minutes to drive 66 yards and seemingly salt away the victory with 1:31 left on Singleton’s 33-yard touchdown run.
West Florence pulled within 41-38 on McKeithan’s seven-yard scoring run with 32 ticks left.
Singleton recovered the onside kick to end the suspense.
Going in, Jenerette expected his offense to struggle against the Conway defense but thought his defense could handle the Tigers’ offense, which came in averaging only one touchdown a game.
“It was one of those nights,” Jenerette said.
Conway, now 1-0 in the region and 1-4 overall, will travel to Socastee Friday.
The Knights will have a short week and host St. James on Thursday.