State-ranked Hayti has three players rush for over 100 yards against Charleston
CHARLESTON -- The Hayti Indians marched into John Harris Marshall Field Friday night to take on the Charleston Bluejays in what proved to be a tough gridiron show-down. In the end, the Bluejays found their grasp to be out of reach as the Indians slipped by with the victory, 39-20.
"I am very proud of the way our guys played tonight," said Charleston head coach Dan Kesselring, "We came out and played the number four team in the state (Class 1), and really made them play their wheels off in this one."
Both offenses struggled out of the gate as each team fumbled on their opening drive. However, Charleston (1-4) quickly settled in behind the running of halfback Marquez Ware who went for 95 yards on 28 carries in the game. A consistent running game moved the Bluejays down the field and set them up to launch their aerial attack.
Looking at second-and-eight, quarterback Chase McClendon found wide out Mike Spence in stride. With the ball in his hands, Spence broke lose from one Hayti defender and eluded their free safety to take pass all the way to the end zone for six. This long strike for 55-yards gave Charleston an early 7-0 led with 7:27 left in the first quarter.
"Marquez Ware carried the ball tremendously tonight, which set up the pass," said Kesselring, "I've got to give a lot of credit to our receiver and our offensive line tonight, too, though.
"It was just a great total team effort and that's what we are looking for."
The Bluejays touchdown would not go unnoticed on the Hayti sideline, as the offense for the Indians wasted no time responding to Charleston's early bomb.
Hayti moved the ball down the field with a variety of running attacks on their next drive, setting them up for a chance to answer Charleston's opening blow. Facing a third-and-long on the Bluejays 31-yard line, quarterback Shaun Jones air mailed a beautiful spiral that connected with receiver Jerome Covington in the back of the end zone. The touchdown pass was just what the Indians needed to tie the game 7-7 and to give them some momentum in the early going.
"Shaun Jones stepped up for us and threw the ball well," said Hayti head coach David Gilmore, "He had some big plays and some big bombs that really changed the momentum for us tonight."
Using that newly found momentum to their advantage, the Indians stalled Charleston on their next drive to get the ball back on a three and out. Going back to their bread and butter, Hayti once again began their diverse running attack to allow themselves to take a 14-7 lead right before time expired in the first.
With only 37 seconds left in the quarter, running back Anton Jones got in of the scoring action with a short one-yard run.
"Our run game has been leading us all year," said Gilmore, "Our offense is starting to get more rounded which helps keep defenses from keying in on certain plays."
Hayti continued running the ball hard during the second quarter as they tacked another touchdown with a 31-yard run by James. On their next drive, the Indians tried to set up a knock out punch on the Bluejays but a fourth down pass attempt was knocked right out of the hands of a Hayti receiver on great coverage by linebacker Matt Medlock.
Hayti wouldn't be denied however as they managed to pound the ball in right before the half on a 6-yard run by Covington with 45 seconds left before the half.
All but counted out, the Bluejays found themselves with new life after a highly motivated Brian Caldwell refused to go down on the kick off return, dragging an onslaught of Hayti defenders down to the 50-yard line.
Rejuvenated by Caldwell's hustle, Charleston came out on first-and-ten to deliver 50-yard strike to Alan Hemphill who found himself at the end of the catch with six points.
"We had a couple of big let downs," said Gilmore, "Right before the half, they shocked us with a huge play that gave them all the momentum going into the locker rooms at half."
Charleston came out after halftime, riding the same wave of momentum, they went out on during the second quarter, causing Hayti to cough up the ball once again on their second half starting drive.
"This is probably the most physical game we've been in all year," said Gilmore, "They are a whole different team than what you see on film once you play them live."
The Bluejays were unable to capitalize on the turnover as they were later forced to punt the ball away. Starting the drive on their own 5- yard line, the Indians once again unleashed their diverse running game, spreading out the Charleston defense with sweeps and opening up the lanes in the middle.
Working their way down field, Jones hooked up with wide out Jamestic Gooden making it is second delivery through the air in the game. This 47-
yard pass gave Hayti a comfortable 32-14 lead with 8:19 left to go in the third quarter.
The Bluejays tried to rally back into the game as their next drive narrowed the Indian lead to two possessions at 32-20 after a McClendon quarterback keeper from one yard out.
Charleston's next opportunity came after they recovered a muffed Hayti exchange on the Indians 25-yard line but they were unable to do so, settling for a punt that once again landed on the Hayti 5-yard line.
"At times I felt like we didn't play well," said Gilmore, "But our kids really dug deep and made some good defensive stops when we needed them to."
On their own five, Hayti's running game that had been so steady throughout the game almost caught them as a sweep play found the running back dancing in his own end zone. However, after buying time with his feet, Covington managed to avoid the sack, making it back to the line of scrimmage.
"They've got great running backs that make you miss," said Kesselring, "If we come and make tackles, not give up big plays, we win this ball game."
Avoiding what could have been a game-altering safety, Hayti began the final scoring drive of the game as they burned the clock on the ground until Covington broke loose for a 61-yard run. The long run at the 1:22 mark was all that Hayti needed to hang on to the win as the fourth brought out the reserves to run out the clock.
"Charleston is the best team we've played this year so far," said Gilmore, "To get out of here only allowing 20 points to this offense, we've done something good.
"They've got athletes that can explode for a play anytime."
"I can't say enough how proud I am of our guys," said Kesselring, "Against a state-ranked team we showed we have some guts here. We've just got to pick it up a little and continue to get better."
Charleston will be back home next week as they host the Dexter Bearcats for homecoming.