BACK FOR #4 - Dutch Fork returns to state title game after 45-20 win in Lower State final
It's back to the Class 5A title game in the capitol city once again for the Dutch Fork football team.
The Silver Foxes defeated Carolina Forest 45-20 at home Friday to win its 4th straight Class 5A Lower State title. It was also the 39th straight game without a loss, the 38th consecutive win over a Palmetto State school and 19th playoff victory in a row for the defending 3-time champions.
Senior running back Jon Hall led the offense with 145 rushing yards and tying the single-game school record with 6 touchdowns. In 4 playoff games, Hall has amassed 14 rushing touchdowns and 10 in the past 2 games to go with 36 TDs on the season.
He also had 3 receptions for 85 yards, 2nd behind Jalin Hyatt's 102 receiving yards on 5 receptions.
"I'm so proud of Jon," Dutch Fork head coach Tom Knotts said. "He started real slow, but he finished strong. I'm so proud of him."
"This mean a lot because it's my last senior week of football," Hall said. "This day means a lot to come out here, it's just amazing."
History was also made on the defensive end as cornerback DiMarco Johnson set the school record with his 11th career interception.
The pick set up Hall's 70-yard touchdown run to cap a 38-0 run by Dutch Fork after trailing 14-7 in the 1st half.
Led by 6-4, 205-pound dual threat senior quarterback Mason Garcia, Carolina Forest (12-2) scored on consecutive time-consuming 1st half drives in becoming the 1st team since Mallard Creek (N.C.) in the season-opener to hold a lead against Dutch Fork.
Garcia scored on a 4-yard run to put the Panthers on the board. The East Carolina commit then answered a quick scoring drive by the Silver Foxes with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Josh Murphy regain the lead.
The Panthers were 2-2 on 4th down conversions on their 1st 2 scoring drives and finished 5-8. Garcia finished 17-23 for 193 passing yards.
"Since Mallard Creek, we hadn't seen such a dynamic offense," Dutch Fork defensive back Tyrik McDaniel said. "The quarterback, we had to give him a lot of that credit because he could also run and pass. Being able to see that, that was a good test for us."
After Hall's 2nd 1-yard touchdown run tied the game at 14, Carolina Forest converted another 4th down and faced a 4th 1 at the Dutch Fork 36 with 1:20 left.
This time, Garcia's pass was caught out of bounds by Kyle Watkins to force a turnover on down. Quarterback Ty Olenchuk completed 4 passes for 59 yards to Jalin Hyatt and Hall to set up the running back's 3rd 1-yard TD with 1:01 left in the half to put Dutch Fork on top for good.
Olenchuk was 13-17 passing for 276 yards.
Carolina Forest's Trevor Lavallee fumbled the kickoff return and Jarvis McCurkin recovered it at the Silver Foxes 37. As time expired, Graham Newboult connected on a 27-yard field goal to send Dutch Fork into the lockerroom up 24-14.
"We felt like we had a pretty good gameplan," Carolina Forest head coach Marc Morris said. "Offensively, we moved the ball pretty good the majority of the night. We knew we had to score with them. They're so explosive on offense. Coach Knotts and them do a great job with their team both offensively and defensively. That little hiccup right there before the half that put them up by 10 instead of just going in there by 7, that hurt us."
The momentum continued Dutch Fork's way as Hall scored on touchdown runs of 1, 24 and 70 yards to extend the lead to 38-14 with 9:06 left in the game. Carolina Forest ended the scoring run with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Garcia to Watkins.
The PAT was unsuccessful, leaving the Panthers tied with West Ashley for the visiting South Carolina team with the most points scored at Dutch Fork since Northwestern on Sept. 21, 2018 in a 66-28 loss.
"They've got a great offensive scheme and gameplan and we just couldn't stop him," Morris said. "The bottom line, we couldn't stop him and felt like our offense moved the ball. You come in to play him to beat him, you've got to score with him. We were able to do that the 1st half, we weren't able to do it the 2nd half."
Dutch Fork (13-0-1) will now look to become the 6th team in S.C. High School League history to win 4 consecutive state titles. Standing in the way for the 2nd time in 3 years is Dorman (14-0), a 30-6 winner over Gaffney in the Class 5A Upper State final.
The Silver Foxes defeated the Cavaliers 28-27 in the 2017 championship as they stopped a potential go-ahead 2-point conversion in the final seconds.
Kickoff for the Dec. 7 game is at noon at Williams-Brice Stadium.