By Justin Jarrett
The new digs were stunning, the stands were packed, and the band was on point. But the question hanging over a festive renovated stadium at Battery Creek High School on Friday was whether the football team was ready to meet the moment.
The Dolphins answered more resoundingly than their renowned band celebrated after Jeremiah Mceachin and Damien Freeman led the ground game and Battery Creek’s defense gave a workmanlike effort in a hard-fought 19-13 win over crosstown rival Whale Branch.
“It’s been a rough couple of weeks here,” Battery Creek coach Terrance Ashe said. “We just talked to our team and told them to persevere. We’ve been faced with a lot of adversity playing on the road. It’s been a lot.”
The home crowd was hoping for a reason to party but had reasonable doubts about whether the Dolphins could deliver after three straight defeats, including a 38-0 drubbing at Bluffton a week earlier, especially with a red-hot Warriors team coming around the bend from Seabrook.
Freshman Nick Underwood allowed the Creek faithful to exhale when he nearly took the opening kick to the house, setting up Freeman for a touchdown run and a quick 6-0 lead, but the defenses set the tone for the rest of the night.
After workhorse back Mason Griffin went down with an apparent left knee injury in the first quarter, the Warriors found tough sledding on the ground against a strong defensive front led by Leroy Tyus and an active Battery Creek linebacking corps. It wasn’t much easier for Creek, but a veteran offensive line was able to create enough space for Mceachin and Freeman to keep the chains moving, and Donyae Brown provided some key carries down the stretch when Freeman went down temporarily with cramping calves.
Mceachin broke through into the end zone on the first play of the second quarter to make it 12-0 and give the home crowd an extra shot of confidence, but the doubt began to creep back in when the Warriors came up with a goal-line stand to keep it a two-touchdown game at halftime then struck quickly to start the second half.
Jakhi Pusha hit Keith Chisholm on a slant, and the junior bolted past the defense and into the end zone to give the Warriors life. After another fourth-down stop from the defense, Chisholm turned another short pass from Pusha into a big gain, but Tyus stopped the momentum with a sack and another key stop to halt the drive.
Whale Branch’s defense held serve once more after a holding penalty negated a Freeman touchdown, but Creek got it right back when Ty Mitchell jumped a route on third and long and set up the Dolphins at the 17-yard line. Mceachin swept around the left end a few plays later and soccer star Taelyr Daugherty booted the PAT to make it 19-6 with less than six minutes to play.
The Creek band had the crowd in full celebration mode when the Warriors threw one last scare into them, as Davon Evans caught a jump ball from Pusha at the 10 and spun out of a tackle to pull Whale Branch back within a touchdown with 1:22 remaining. The panic was short-lived, though, because Freeman pounced on the Warriors’ onside kick and cranked the celebration to 11.
Mceachin rushed for 88 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries and Freeman added 84 yards and a TD on 15 carries and two receptions for 40 yards, while Hunter Smith completed 5 of 7 passes for 56 yards. Tyus had four tackles, 1.5 sacks, and two quarterback hurries, with seemingly every one of them coming when the Dolphins needed a stop the most, and Juju Gordon and Mitchell led Creek’s defense in stops.
It was a remarkable turnaround from last week’s effort at Bluffton in every phase of the game.
“This week these guys really came together,” Ashe said. “I told them at the end of the day, we all we got, we all we need, and they played for each other.”
The Dolphins (2-4) are back on the new home turf to open Region 8-3A play against North Charleston at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Warriors (3-2) open Region 7-1A play at home against Bethune-Bowman at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
Justin Jarrett is the sports editor of The Island News and the founder of LowcoSports.com. He was the sports editor of the Island Packet and the Beaufort Gazette for 6½ years. He has a passion for sports and community journalism and a questionable sense of humor.