By Wes Kerr
COLUMBIA — After the final seconds ticked off Thursday night at Benedict College, Bryce Lybrand embraced his former mentor at midfield. Then, with tears in his eyes, he addressed his team with a simple message: He loves them and he couldn’t be prouder.
It was an inspiring effort from a phenomenal Beaufort High team, but the Eagles were no match for DeVonte Holloman’s South Pointe Stallions.
Zay McCrorey threw for 344 yards with two rushing touchdowns, and the South Pointe defense stifled a dynamic Beaufort High attack to blitz the Eagles 41-7 in the 2021 SCHSL Class 4A State Championship game. The Stallions captured their seventh title since the school opened in 2005 and denied the Eagles’ quest for their first crown since 1945.
“They were a better football team than we were,” Lybrand said. “They beat us and they earned it, and they did a great job.”
After an impressive stop on defense to open the night, McCrorey and South Pointe’s explosive tandem struck quickly. The Stallion quarterback dialed up Damari Kendrick for a 45-yard completion over the top before Caleb Sims punched in a 4-yard touchdown run. Beaufort threatened in its second drive with an 18-yard Amariee Morris burst to the outside, but South Pointe’s stout defense stuffed quarterback Tyler Haley on a third down inside Stallion territory. Lybrand looked to catch the punt return team off guard with a fake, but James Dennison’s surprise pass fell incomplete.
It didn’t take long for the Stallions to march back to the red zone, as McCrorey hit his favorite target Waymond Jenerette for a 33-yard gain. The Eagles thought they had the Stallions stopped after a Dennison sack, but kicker Chip Distastio was interfered with on his field goal attempt as the yellow flags came out. It was a missed opportunity for a group that needed a break, and the surging Stallions cashed in on the next play. Jaquan Thompson took the handoff from his quarterback, and weaved his way into the end zone from four yards out for a 14-0 lead.
Beaufort’s hard-nosed defense was doing its best to keep the Eagles within striking distance, but Haley and company couldn’t string together a drive against a hungry South Pointe front. Meanwhile, the Stallion offense came up aces in every big moment and found some magic on a third-and-25 to build its commanding lead. After a holding call pushed South Pointe back, McCrorey sizzled a dime to Kendrick for a first down before taking it across the goal line himself for a 1-yard score.
The Stallions’ defense fed off McCrorey’s heroics, as Kendrick tracked down a wayward Haley pass to give the ball right back to the senior signal-caller. Holloman knew the importance of scoring right before the half, and his team was knocking on the door after some more brilliance from his quarterback. A weary Beaufort defense stood tall, as McLeod Reichel wrapped up McCrorey on an outside run as the clock hit quadruple zeroes.
But just as the Eagles were ready to bolt back to the locker room with momentum on their side, the officials overruled the scoreboard and added three seconds back onto the clock. With McCrorey banged up on the play, Holloman turned to Jenerette for a chance to bury his opponents. The senior delivered, slinging a pass into the arms of Armendiz Huskey to break the hearts of Beaufort’s supporters and surge into halftime with a 28-0 lead.
Beaufort’s defense needed a big play to spark a comeback effort, and Eamon Smalls got it started on the second snap from scrimmage. The 300-pound lineman punched the ball away from Lavaris Copley, and Colton Phares snatched the fumble to give the Eagle faithful some hope. But the door was promptly shut. Zyrin Odom was pummeled on a trick play for an 11-yard loss before a pair of incompletions stymied the Beaufort drive.
Despite a stellar Eagle defensive effort with a pair of fourth-down stops, Haley couldn’t find a way to solve a dazzling South Pointe secondary. The night continued to spiral for the Lower State champs, as Morris and Haley both hobbled off the field down the stretch as their outstanding Beaufort careers came to an end.
“All these seniors mean a ton,” Lybrand said. “They just never quit, they believed in something when there wasn’t a whole lot to believe in. They just said, hey, we think we can do something special. You have them for four years, and it’s hard to imagine a time without them. They’ve been so special and played so hard and have done it the right way.”
It was a dominant performance on both sides for the Stallions in the final quarter, as Thompson and McCrorey both found the end zone again while a swarming defense forced two more turnovers. With a glimpse of Beaufort High’s future on the field in the final minutes, Samari Bonds led a terrific drive to break the shutout, completing a pass to Kacy Fields before Caleb Ulmer raced past a swarm of defenders for a memorable 35-yard touchdown.
But the night belonged to Holloman and the Stallions, who ran out the rest of the clock to claim the state title for an incredible seventh time.
McCrorey delivered a legendary performance under center for South Pointe, throwing for 344 yards while adding 64 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. Sims rushed for 64 yards with two scores, and Thompson added 58 yards and crossed the end zone twice. Kendrick caught six passes for 169 yards, and Jenerette was sensational with four highlight-reel grabs for 107 yards.
Ulmer led the Eagle offense with a terrific display late, rushing for 95 yards and Beaufort’s lone score of the night. Phares was relentless on the defensive side, leading all players with 16 tackles. Dennison racked up 10 tackles including three behind the line of scrimmage with one sack, and Smalls added nine tackles. Daryl DePass shined in the Eagle secondary, breaking up numerous passes and blanketing Jenerette with excellent coverage even when the record-breaking receiver was able to make the catch.
After Holloman handed Lybrand the reins in 2019 before departing for home and South Pointe, he challenged his friend to be himself and build the program in his own way. Three seasons later, Lybrand has exceeded all expectations and given his team, his school, and his community so much to be proud of.
“You just see how far they have come,” Lybrand said. “We were 0-5 in Year 1, it was rough, and these kids had to deal with a lot of adversity. And they stuck with it. I feel like we’ve got our program on the right foundation and headed in the right direction. It’s hard to see the good things through the bad, but I know I’m proud of them, and I hope they know I’m proud of them.”