A historic season for the Irmo Yellowjackets came to a close Friday night after a 28-21 loss to defending 4A champions, South Florence.
A historic season for the Irmo Yellowjackets came to a close Friday night after the team’s comeback effort came up short in a 28-21 loss to defending 4A champions, South Florence.
Irmo picked up its first loss after the Bruins jumped to a 28-7 lead. The Yellowjackets fought back in the fourth quarter and had the opportunity to tie the game with under two minutes left to go. That drive went nowhere, and South Florence put a stop to Irmo’s quest for its first state title since 1980.
“I wish we could have got this victory for the community and for the kids, but I guess we have to come back and try it again another time,” head coach Aaron Brand said. “There comes a time when they don't let you play football anymore. We were fortunate enough to make it to the last four.”
Quarterback A.J. Brand threw for two touchdowns, rushed in one and had an interception. He played an inconsistent game but made plays to keep his team in it.
Receiver Telvin Smith was the top target, catching seven passes, including one for a touchdown. Receiver Donovan Murph scored the other receiving touchdown and led the team in yards off three catches.
South Florence quarterback SyRee Livingston was the difference maker for the Bruins. He dominated primarily as a runner and racked up over 150 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the first half.
The Bruins started with the ball and scored on the game's first possession. Livingston rushed for 69 yards on the drive and capped it with a one-yard punch in.
Irmo failed to respond on its drive but managed to pick up a first down to avoid a three-and-out.
The next drive for South Florence was almost identical to the first. The team focused on the run game and was carried by Livingston’s powerful running in the wildcat formation.
Three different Bruins took snaps at quarterback on this drive. Livingston took a 49-yard rush to the Irmo one-yard line and leaped into the endzone for the score on the next play. The kicker missed the point after, giving South Florence a 13-0 lead in the first quarter.
Irmo struggled again on its next drive, but the defense settled in and managed to slow down the Bruin's rushing attack to keep the Yellowjackets in the game.
The team scored its first points of the game near the end of the second quarter after a 23-yard Bruins punt set up Irmo in enemy territory. Brand and running back Jaiden Allen-Hendrix made all the plays on this drive and put a 36-yard drive together that ended in an eight-yard rush from Brand.
Irmo looked defeated for the majority of the third quarter. South Florence scored two touchdowns and converted a two-point conversion to extend the lead to 28-7.
The Yellowjackets found their fight during the quarter-final drive. The team moved the ball downfield, converted on a fourth down and capped the drive with a 43-yard touchdown connection between Brand and Smith on the quarter-final play.
The Bruins were held scoreless in the final quarter, setting up the Irmo offense for a storybook comeback.
The team held South Florence to a punt on its first possession of the final period, but on the first play of Irmo’s drive Brand’s pass was picked off. The Irmo defense held strong and avoided a dagger score.
Irmo scored on its next drive to cut the game to one possession. The team first had to convert on a fourth and two. Brand hit Murph for a 12-yard gain to move the chains.
The next set of downs for Irmo went almost nowhere with a net gain of one yard to set up third and nine. The Yellowjackets took a shot downfield and Murph ran under the ball with nothing but green grass in front of him for a 58-yard touchdown.
Irmo’s defense again prevented South Florence from moving the ball and forced a three-and-out with just over two minutes left in the game. Irmo took over with positive field position and plenty of time.
The Yellowjackets failed to replicate the success of their previous drive and the team went backwards. A fourth-down desperation heave was just out of the receiver’s reach and the Bruins offense took over to run a couple kneel downs.
“We taught them to fight for four quarters no matter what, whether you're up or down,” coach Brand said. “They did it. I don't want to let this loss, although it does hurt, I don't want to let it take away from the great things that the kids did all year.”
The loss concludes a historic season for the Yellowjackets that saw the team go undefeated in the regular season and win their region.
“We did something that will live in the record books forever,” coach Brand said. “Led the state in total offense, quarterback had 62 touchdowns with only two turnovers on the year, running back rushed for well over 2200, almost 2300 yards. Murph with some big plays, offensive line was tremendous and our defense was just lights out all year. Ran into a bit of a buzz saw tonight, but that takes nothing away.”
Players and coaches were emotional after the loss, but coach Brand said even though it hurts it will be a good lesson for next season where hopefully the team is back in this situation.
“We've gotten to the door, and we've got to find a time when we're going to kick it in,” coach Brand said. “We're going to keep plugging and going to keep pushing, and we'll get back to this game. At some point, we're going to have it on our home turf too.”
Dutch Fork: 31, JL Mann: 30
White Knoll: 21, Summerville: 14
Camden: 46, Brookland-Cayce: 30
Gray Collegiate: 27, Abbeville: 12
All games are held at South Carolina State University’s Oliver Dawson Stadium in Orangeburg.
Thursday, Nov. 30
2A: Gray Collegiate vs. Oceanside, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 1
A: Christ Church vs. Johnsonville, 2 p.m.
5A: Dutch Fork vs. White Knoll, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 2
4A: Westside vs. South Florence, noon
3A: Camden vs. Daniel, 7 p.m.
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