By Wes Kerr
Resilient Eagles down Dillon, going back to state ‘to win it’
It takes an unparalleled level of talent, grit, and resilience to mold a championship football team. Bryce Lybrand’s Beaufort Eagles might just have them all.
Kacy Fields led a stellar ground game with three rushing touchdowns, and the Eagles overcame a shaky start on the road Friday to vanquish Dillon, 30-21, and advance to the SCHSL 3A State Championship game. Beaufort claimed its second consecutive Lower State title and became the first team to win at Dillon in the postseason since 2011, earning the right to face Powdersville for the Class 3A title at 7 p.m. Thursday at Benedict College in Columbia.
“They say big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games, and our guys shined really bright tonight,” Lybrand said. “They don’t quit, they just keep fighting. Just really proud of the kids and the coaching staff, doing what we need to do to win the football game and get another chance to play for a state championship.”
The Eagles absorbed the first blow of the night, as a strong Dillon offensive line paved the way for an opening 12-play drive. Beaufort looked to have the stop on a 4th-and-3 inside the 10, but a late flag gave the home side a first down before big Chris McCollum punched it in from 3 yards out for the early lead.
It continued to spiral early for the visitors, as a misplayed handoff on offense put the ball on the ground and back into the hands of the Wildcats. But a hungry Beaufort defense got it right back, forcing a three-and-out thanks to a holding call and a terrific defensive play from corner Dom Camacho.
It took just two plays on the Eagles’ second drive to find the end zone. Samari Bonds showed off his quickness on a 24-yard run, and senior stud Colton Phares broke free for a 36-yard touchdown to knot the Lower State final at 7. Beaufort’s stout run defense forced another punt as Fields, playing both ways, raced from the secondary to shut down Ty Martin.
Bonds and the Eagles struggled to find their groove offensively in the second quarter, but a hard-working Beaufort defense came up big again to force a turnover on downs in the red zone. After freshman quarterback Josiah Oxendine impressed with a deep pass on the run to Donnez Alford, the Eagle secondary held the Wildcats down amid clouds of smoke on the field lingering from celebratory fireworks.
Fields delivered a nasty stiff arm as he brought the ball inside the Dillon 25 on the Eagles’ next drive, but Alford read a Bonds pass perfectly and picked it off to keep the game tied. Jack Sumner surged into the backfield to sack Oxendine near midfield, and Robert Johnson ended the ensuing Dillon drive with a stuff of Martin for a 1-yard loss to force a punt.
CLASS 3A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
Who: Beaufort (12-1) vs. Powdersville (13-1)
When: 7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 1
Where: Charlie W. Johnson Stadium, Benedict College, Columbia