WINNSBORO — The home opener for the Richard Winn Eagles was a barn burner Friday night. With just over 40 seconds remaining, quarterback Matt Taylor eluded the talons of the Greenwood Christian Hawks defenders and scrambled 55 yards for the winning touchdown.
Mitchell Gibbons made the PAT and the Eagles pulled out a 36-34 come-from-behind win. The win was sealed on the final drive when Conrad Sharpe intercepted a Hawks pass.
In the first half, things were going the Hawks way. Led by an effective rushing attack, the Hawks quarterback proved elusive and kept the Eagles defense on its heels much of the quarter. GCA got out to a 12-0 lead in the first quarter thanks to two scoring runs. Both extra point attempts were no good.
In the second quarter, RWA capped off a long drive with Taylor running it in from 19 yards out. Mitchell Gibbons kick was good and RWA trailed 12-7. GCA answered with a long touchdown drive of its own and scored in a hurry on a 47-yard run.
Once more the Hawks were kept out of the end zone on a two-point try. RWA responded to cut the lead before the half. Taylor read the safeties and found Web Yongue streaking down field. He hit him in stride and Yongue did the rest, juking defenders for a 43-yard score.
Austin Knox bulled across the goal line for the two-point conversion. RWA trailed 18-15 at that point. The Eagles recovered a fumble on the next possession after GCA had driven inside the Eagle red zone.
In a game where the victors had almost 400 yards total offense, with 290 yards rushing and 105 yards passing, that red zone stop loomed large. The turnover kept GCA out of the end zone before the half and suddenly the Eagles had opportunity to seize momentum.
“At halftime we reminded them we were just down by three. There was a lot of football left to play,” Coach Dan Dickerson said. “Our guys believed the game was ours to win but we had to tackle better in the second half.”
Dickerson said the RWA loss against Patrick Henry helped because the Eagles knew the game was not over until it was over.
Knox was the workhorse in this game for the Eagle rushing attack. The Greenwood defense gave up the fullback dive in the option set, so the Eagles took what the Hawks gave them. Knox finished with 27 carries for 131 yards, a 19-yard touchdown run and a two-point conversion.
“We really were able to wear them down with Knox. They gave us the dive up the middle, so we took advantage until we had to change things up late in the game,” Dickerson said.
Protecting the football and playing the field position game worked for the Eagles, in large part do to Knox’s foot as well as his feet. Knox had several punts downed inside the 20-yard line so the Hawks often had a long field to work with. He averaged over 40 yards per punt, not counting one short kick that pinned the Hawks inside the 20.
For the game, Taylor was 4-11 for 105 yards and two touchdowns. He added 110 yards rushing on 15 attempts. Running back John Coleman had 50 yards on seven attempts. Mitchell Gibbons made the most of his one reception in the game, hauling in a 34-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.
But Greenwood Christian answered that score with two rushing touchdowns of its own and each was capped off with a two-point conversion. Those scores put the Hawks up 34-29 with under a minute remaining.
That time crunch did not phase Taylor, whom teammates have nicknamed “Matty Ice” for his coolness under pressure. He relied upon his football IQ and ran the coach’s game plan to perfection as RWA pulled out the win.
Dickerson was proud of his players and their discipline and ball security. “We won the turnover game which was the big thing,” Dickerson said.
Richard Winn returns to the road this week, travelling to Batesburg Leesville to take on W.W. King Academy. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.