Gaffney upsets the #2 team in the state in round one of the 5A playoffs


Johnnie Godfrey (FBC Sports)

Cameron Rice leaps a Northwestern defender

Brock Hamrick, Staff Writer

Cameron Rice rushed for 107 yards and four touchdowns, Jaiden Clayton and Quez Smith both recorded an interception, and the Gaffney Indians shocked Northwestern 33-30 in double overtime in the first round of the playoffs.

“We missed a couple of opportunities on offense that we didn’t capitalize on but the defense battled and we were able to come out with it, I’m just tickled,” said Gaffney head coach Dan Jones.

Gaffney began the game on defense for the first time this season and forced Northwestern to punt after a three-and-out. The Indians offense was unable to pick up a first down, and the Trojans got the ball back at their own 32-yard line. Northwestern marched down the field and had the ball second-down and goal from the 6-yard line. Trojan quarterback Gage Moloney rolled to the right side of the field, threw a pass out of the back of the end zone, and was hit hard by several Gaffney defenders causing him to fall and injure his non-throwing wrist. Moloney would not return to the game as sophomore Tanner McKinney took the reins of the offense. McKinney’s first play from scrimmage resulted in a interception at the one-yard line by Jaiden Clayton. Clayton returned the ball to the Gaffney 28-yard line. The Tribe marched down the field, mounting a 7-play 72-yard drive capped off by Cameron Rice’s one-yard run, and took the early 7-0 advantage. The Trojans would however answer as McKinney found Jordan Starkes on a 72-yard touchdown toss to even the score at 7-7.

Josh Blackwell takes the ball to the one-yard line to set up the Indian touchdown
Johnnie Godfrey (FBC Sports)
Josh Blackwell takes the ball to the one-yard line to set up the Indian touchdown

The Indians first drive in the second quarter took 8:26, and Rice once again found the end zone from one-yard out to hand the lead back to the Tribe 13-6 as Mosqueda’s extra point was blocked. Gaffney took the six point cushion to halftime.

Opening the second half on offense, the Indians drive was stalled at the Northwestern 17-yard line forcing the Indians to attempt a 34-yard field goal that Marcos Mosqueda would have partially blocked. McKinney drove his team down the field, finding his Shrine Bowl running back Jerry Howard, who finished with 149 yards of total offense, to tie the game at 13-13 after the Indians returned the favor of a blocked extra-point.

Northwestern’s first drive of the fourth quarter ended in an interception by Quez Smith at the Trojan 14-yard line. Gaffney’s offense would take over and two plays later Rice found the promise land again to give the Tribe the upper-hand, 20-13 with 9:59 remaining. McKinney would not be outdone, finding Starkes on a 25-yard touchdown connection to tie the game 20-20. The game remained tied after regulation which forced overtime.

The Indians began overtime on offense from the 10-yard line, and Rice could not be denied finding the end zone for the fourth and final time of the night. Howard answered for the Trojans with a touchdown carry of his own to force double overtime. The Trojans began the second overtime on offense, and the Gaffney defense stood firm, forcing Northwestern to kick a field goal as Thomas Gettys nailed the 26-yard attempt to take the 30-27 lead. After a Tyshun Sarratt quarterback keeper to the 6-yard line on second down, the Trojans called a timeout to set up their defense. Dennis Smith came in motion on third down as Sarratt took the snap, Smith took the hand-off on a sweep play, stepped back, and threw a pass to Josh Blackwell who made an amazing catch to seal the deal, sending the Indians to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

“Dennis threw the ball really well and Josh Blackwell, he’s a great receiver for us, and we knew he’d be clutch so we just ran that and felt like we’d get Josh open. The guy covered him better than what we though he would, but Josh went up and fought for it and took it out of his hands; he did a great job.” said Jones.

The Gaffney win over Northwestern at District Three Stadium in Rock Hill on Friday night was the first of its kind since 1991. Gaffney advances to play a team it has already defeated this season, Hillcrest, who beat T.L Hanna in the first round.