WINNSBORO — Coming home was just what the Richard Winn Eagles needed to find their way back into the win column.
The Eagles rode a wave of momentum from Spirit Week for homecoming and rolled up 496 yards of total offense in a 42-20 victory over the Myrtle Beach Christian Saints. Three Eagles each rushed for over 100 yards on the night with John Coleman leading the way with 201 yards on 26 carries.
Austin Knox rushed nine times for 121 yards on just nine carries. Quarterback Matt Taylor added 107 yards on 11 attempts. He also tallied 68 yards in the air on completions to Knox and Conrad Sharpe.
The Eagles overcame four fumbles on the night thanks to an opportunistic defense. Coach Dan Dickerson said his club had ball security issues early in the game and wonders if maybe they were a little too amped up for homecoming.
After the first quarter, they only had one turnover. Dickerson said once the team took care of the ball, they started scoring points against a Myrtle Beach Christian team in its first year of organized varsity football.
The Eagles led 14-13 at the half thanks to Mitchell Gibbons’ block of a Saints extra point. Gibbons hit his PATs on the night, something his coach said gave his teammates peace of mind. The consistent kicking meant RWA could avoid doing what many eight-man teams do — try two-point conversions.
Nic Stillwell’s ball hawk tendencies put the Eagles ahead to stay in the second half. His 46-yard return off an intercepted pitch on the option play pretty much broke the Saints’ backs as RWA took a lead and never looked back.
His teammates swarmed to the ball and the Myrtle Beach quarterback became flustered and made a bad pitch right into the arms of the hustling, opportunistic Stillwell who raced untouched for the touchdown that turned the momentum in the second half. The Eagles scored the final three touchdowns in the game to pull away in the fourth quarter, thanks to their rushing attack.
Dickerson was encouraged by the variety of ways his team ran the ball.
“When Myrtle Beach stopped our off tackle run, we moved inside and ran isolation plays. When they shifted inside to cover the gaps, we ran sweeps,” Dickerson said.
Special teams were solid for the homecoming game and the team defense was some of the best Dickerson said he has seen yet from these Eagles.
Other than one pass play and the first running play of the game, he said his defense avoided giving up the big play.
“The defense was really flying to the ball, he said, and that’s a good thing,” he said. “I think we finally understand how to play team defense with 4-5 guys smothering the football instead of one or two trying to fly around making plays.”
This week RWA heads to Lake City to take on Carolina Academy in another region contest. Dickerson said his players will be ready and he looks for them to step up their game now that region play is here and each game has playoff implications.
The formula of a solid running game, mistake free football and a stout defense is what he looks for from the Eagles as they take to the road this week.