At halftime, St. James senior two-way standout Jemale Faulkner was crowned homecoming king. At the end of the Sharks' 10-7 upset victory over Conway on Friday, he felt like the king of the world.
"We did it!" the offensive and defensive lineman shouted over the din of St. James fans and teammates celebrating the school's first-ever win over the Tigers. "We worked hard all week in practice and we believed in each other. We fought hard and never quit."
The scene stood in stark contrast to the other end of the field, where Conway quarterback Carlton Terry II was still trying to make sense of the Tigers' loss. Despite accounting for more than 300 combined passing and rushing yards on the night, Terry would love to take back a couple of plays that didn't go the Tigers' way.
"We didn't take them seriously in practice this week and it showed tonight," said Terry, who who completed 16 of 23 passes for 228 yards and led the Tigers in rushing with 91 yards and a touchdown. "We just didn't play good enough to win."
The difference between the two extreme emotions rode on the foot of St. James senior placekicker Miles Herring, who calmly booted the game-winning 27-yard field goal with 3:16 remaining. He didn't allow himself to think about that fact that his attempt was for the program's first win over Conway since starting football in 2004.
"I wasn't nervous. This is the situation I practice for, but I knew it was for something special," Herring said. " Then the defense went out and did their job for us. It was a great team win."
Conway had two more chances to pull out a win, with Terry leading the Tigers into Sharks' territory both times. The first drive was halted on an interception in the end zone by Justice Williams, Terry's second of the night.
The Tigers' final drive featured two dropped passes — one by his favorite target Xavier Kinlaw, who had nothing but end zone on the horizon. Following last week's four-touchdown performance, Kinlaw finished with nine catches for 139 yards but missed the chance to be the hero.
Conway outgained St. James 374 yards to 283, but it was three key turnover by the Tigers and none for the Sharks that proved the difference. Conway, which came up empty on four red zone visits, committed 10 penalties for 115 yards to St. James' six for 65.
Both teams managed to move the ball between the 20s with little success on the scoreboard. St. James' lone touchdown came on its opening possession, capped by a perfectly executed 37-yard screen pass to Malachi Butler. Conway's only score came on its first possession of the second half, with Terry scrambling 21 yards to paydirt.
Despite the upset, the loss doesn't really hurt the Tigers' chances of playing for the Region 6-5A title. Conway (3-5 overall, 3-1 region) needs to beat rival Carolina Forest next Friday to claim the crown.
St. James (3-5, 1-3) snapped a four-game losing streak and looks to keep its hopes for an at-large playoff bid alive by beating rival Socastee next Friday. It wouid be a fitting reward for the Sharks' seniors, who have played under three different head coaches during their varsity careers and had only two wins to show for it before this season.
"This is a great way to celebrate homecoming and Senior Night," said Faulkner, posing for pictures while sporting his homecoming crown. "We earned it."