Bryce Lybrand choked back tears and tried as he might to keep his voice from cracking as steam rose off the sweaty heads staring back at him.
He was so dang proud, he told his Beaufort High football team, the first one he ever led as a head coach. The team that turned an 0-5 start into an unforgettable run to a region championship and a four-game winning streak that ended with a 34-17 home loss to Hartsville in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs Friday.
“We’re building a monster here at Beaufort,” Lybrand told his team. “A certifiable monster.”
The young Eagles didn’t have enough firepower to turn back the Red Foxes on Friday, but they certainly let Hartsville know it had been in a fight.
The Red Foxes opened the night with a three-and-out from the defense followed by an efficient six-play drive capped by the first of Dariyan Pendergrass’ two rushing touchdowns, but Beaufort answered, as James Dagin broke a tackle and sprinted 42 yards for a touchdown to tie it.
The offenses pinged back and forth throughout the first half, with Hartsville’s J’shawn Anderson capping another long touchdown drive with the first of his two rushing scores, and Dagin providing the answer again with a 32-yard run to set up his own 19-yard score.
A muffed punt set up the Red Foxes for the go-ahead score — a 29-yard Pendergrass run on fourth-and-4 — and the Eagles never pulled even again. They drove inside the 5 after a William Winburn interception just before halftime, but an interception on the goal line preserved Hartsville’s lead at the break.
“That one was on me,” Lybrand said. “It was probably a dumb call, to be honest with you. We probably should have stuck with the run. … I’m a first-year head coach, and I’ve got to learn from my mistakes, too.”
A defensive stop to open the half led to another Beaufort drive to the 5, but the Eagles had to settle for Braden Sarathy’s 26-yard field goal to make it 21-17, and that was as close as the Red Foxes’ defense let them get.
Darian McMillan’s score with 5 seconds left in the third quarter made it 27-17, and Anderson added his second score with 7:23 left to send Hartsville into the third round.
“There’s so much positive that’s going on here,” Lybrand said. “It’s hard to believe that right now because all you do is look up at the scoreboard and see that you lost the football game. … I think we restored some respect, and now we’ve got to go build it so we’re a team that wins deep into the playoffs. That’s the next step.”
Hartsville’s Dariyan Pendergrass gets sandwiched off his feet by Beaufort’s Kaedin Grissom, left, and Darryl DePass during the second half Friday night. The Eagles lost to the Red Foxes 34-17. Photo by Bob Sofaly