WINNSBORO — The Newberry Bulldogs (9-4) came up one point shy Friday night against the undefeated Griffins of Fairfield Central (12-0) at E.K. Mclendon Stadium.
After scoring 20 unanswered points in just over 10 minutes, the Bulldogs were unsuccessful on the extra point attempt that would have tied the game.
The long snapper’s snap bounced off the ground and the holder never had a chance to recover before being swarmed by the Fairfield defense. The Griffins went on to win 28-27 to advance to the upperstate championship for the second straight season.
“I tell my guys all the time that it is about doing the little things right,” Fairfield Central head coach Demetrius Davis said after the game. “And in this case it was the long snap for the extra point. It seems easy but it is always important. I’m not going to say we were lucky, but we’re blessed to get a victory tonight.”
Not only was the win a cause for a memorable night, but Davis also celebrated his birthday with the playoff win.
Fairfield defeated Newberry in the playoffs for the second straight season. The two wins have come by a combined eight points. In the all-time series, the Griffins have won 11 of the 17 matchups.
Halfway through the first quarter, Fairfield would begin to move the ball with some success as they picked up three first downs before capping off a six-play 73-yard scoring drive with a touchdown. Griffins quarterback DeAndre Belton faked an end-around to Byron Sampson and then sprung up the middle for a 32-yard touchdown.
Following the kickoff, Newberry would turn it over on the second play of their possession. Fairfield defensive lineman Wallace Brown met Omar Sims in the hole and punched the ball loose allowing Dustin Padgett to recover the fumble and give the griffins the ball at the Newberry 30-yard line.
It would only take the Griffins one play to score after the turnover. Belton used play action to fool the Bulldog defense and then unleash a deep ball to a wide open Walker, who was all alone in the end zone. In what was quite possibly one of Belton’s best throws of the year, he made the pass while falling backwards with Newberry defenders at his feet. The Griffins went up 13-0 after the extra point by Compton Walker.
After their first four posessions ended in three punts and a turnovers, things would start to look up for the Bulldogs on their next drive. Early in the second quarter, Newberry quarterback Yafari Werts rolled out on a bootleg and found his tight end Stephen Davis dragging across the field for a 29-yard touchdown pass. The point after by Jose Lozano was good and Newberry cut into the Fairfield lead 13-7.
On Fairfield’s ensuing drive, Belton’s pass went of the fingertips of Tyren white and was intercepted by Khalil Sheppard. It was the Griffins only turnover of the game, but stalled what was an 11-play drive at the Newberry 32-yard line.
The two teams traded punts, but with just over a minute to play in the first half the Griffins would extend their lead. Belton capped a six-play drive with a strike over the middle to Shadarius Hopkins on a post route. It was Hopkins first touchdown reception of the season and put Fairfield up 20-7 at the half.
On their second drive of the third quarter, the Griffins ran seven plays before Larry G. Bell polished off the drive with a seven-yard plunge up the middle for a touchdown. Belton completed a pass to Javaris Cook on the two-point play and gave the Griffins at 28-7 lead halfway through the third quarter.
Down 21 points, the Bulldogs would begin to mount their rally by scoring 20 points in just over 10 minutes.
Following the Fairfield score, Newberry’s ensuing drive took six minutes off the clock with a 14-play drive that covered 73 yards and was capped off with a Jaylen Caldwell three-yard score. Caldwell trotted into the end zone after a pitch play off the right side. The touchdown and extra point cut the Fairfield lead to 28-13
After a Fairfield punt, the Bulldogs used five plays to breach the end zone. Werts scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak on a third down play and suddenly the Bulldogs were within a score, 28-21.
“That is a good football team over there and those guys never flinched,” Davis said. “I told my guys (Fairfield) all week to be prepared for a knock down drag out fight.”
With their season on the line, Newberry was able to force another Fairfield punt to take over at their own 32 yard line down seven points halfway through the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs kept their hopes alive with two fourth-down conversions on the drive, including a fourth-and-18.
Under pressure, Werts tossed up a prayer that was miraculously answered by Jaylen Lindsay. Making his team high fourth catch of the game, Lindsay leaped above three Fairfield defenders to come down with the football and keep Newberry’s season alive.
“When they converted that fourth down and 18, I thought ‘oh no’ because that kind of stuff only happens when you’re going to lose,” Davis noted after the game.
The drive would eventually be finished off with a 16-yard scamper into the end zone by Werts to cut the lead to 28-27. With all the momentum, Newberry’s season changed on just one play — a point after attempt.
On the extra point, the long snapper’s snap bounced off the ground in what ended up being the deciding play of the game. The Griffins lead stood at 28-27, and after the onside kick went out of bounds the Griffins would run the clock out and punch their ticket to the upperstate championship game.
“This (Newberry) is one of the better 2A teams in the state and my hat goes off to those guys,” Davis said after the game. “It was a physical, hard nosed football game. Sometimes you have to be blessed because not everything is always going to go your way and we were fortunate to win this game.”
After the game, Davis said he was pleased his team found a way to hold on for the win.
“These kids (Fairfield) don’t believe they can lose,” he stated. “They’re on a mission and this was special.”
With the win, Fairfield will travel to Cheraw on Nov. 29 to compete for the upperstate championship and a chance to play for the state championship.