Falcons keep trophy in Darlington
By Drake Horton, Contributing Writer
Behind some special team’s heroics, a big play here and there, a much improved defense and the overall drive to want to win, the Darlington Falcons defeated one of its biggest rivals, the Wilson Tigers, 12-10 to win the second annual Virgil Wells Bowl at Memorial Stadium in Florence on Friday.
Wilson had a chance to win the game with less than 20 seconds to go as Jack Pawloski, the Tigers place kicker, lined up to kick a 30-yard field goal. Pawloski, who had already made a field goal earlier from 36 yards out, looked set to win the game and give Wilson its first win in the series since being renamed the Virgil Wells Bowl.
Darlington had a different idea, however. Not wanting to fall to 0-2 to start the season and especially not wanting to relinquish that coveted trophy that the winning team gets to hold for a whole year, Bryson Allen and company blocked Pawloski’s kick and ended Wilson’s chance of stealing a victory.
“It’s a team effort, I give credit to God first, and God is unbelievable,” Allen said on that final play. “It was a team effort, we practice on things real hard, and we worked hard this summer. We just believed man, believed, that’s the main thing, believed. Coaches always preach about believing, players always preach about believing. We have each other’s back, just believe, that’s all I can say.”
It did not look like it was going to come down to that, however. Down 10-6 early in the fourth quarter, Wilson forced Darlington to punt and that is when it looked like all was about to come crashing down.
Wilson recovered the football on the punt attempt due to a botched snap and it looked like the Tigers were going to walk into the end zone when the Wilson player tripped over his own feet around the Falcons four yard line.
It did not seem to be a big deal at the moment as most thought Wilson would just cash in from such a short distance out and basically put the game out of reach. The Darlington defense had different thoughts.
On the first play the Falcons forced a fumble, recovering on their own seven yard line with 10.27 left in the game and Darlington head coach described that play in one word; “huge”.
“A huge play, huge play, absolute huge play,” Jones said on the turnover.
Darlington rode the wave of momentum gained from the defense, putting together a four play drive that saw quarterback Frankie Johnson hit Elmo Johnson for a big reception and tailback Thomas Wheeler finishing off the drive with a 60-yard touchdown run that put the Falcons up 12-10 with 8:49 left in the game.
“I just look at my line, my line did everything, I couldn’t do it without my line,” Wheeler said on the touchdown run. “I had a fumble earlier and I just had to make up for it.”
Jones echoed Wheeler’s comments and said that while the offense has been at a minimum over these first two games, he said that is what the offense is at the moment and that play was a prime example of capitalizing and doing what it does best.
“That’s kind of what we are,” Jones said on the state of the offense. “Everybody kind of thinks our spread is fly it around, put it up in the air a lot, but have to take what we get and what we’re good at right now and we have to keep building on it. We kept hitting them and got fortunate enough Thomas broke one and made a great run. We got some good blocking up front, it was a great read by Frankie, the wide receivers got down field, all 10 guys in front did their job and that’s what it takes.”
The biggest difference in the game, however, was Darlington’s defense. Against Carolina Forest in the opening week the Falcons gave up a total of 31 points, 28 of those coming in the first half.
After holding the Panthers to just three points in the final two quarters of that game and just a total of 10 points in the game against Wilson, the Falcons defense has now only allowed 13 points over the past six quarters of football.
“I think our defense has improved so much and it’s all about what you believe in and our guys believe and are starting to understand the system,” Jones said on the defense. “This is a tribute to the entire coaching staff, I have a great, great coaching staff and they had a phenomenal game plan tonight and these young men, they bowed their neck and faced adversity and they did everything they had to do to win this ball game.”
Darlington opened the scoring up in the first quarter, scoring on its first drive when Frankie Johnson ran in from 10 yards out. It was the Falcons only other score of the game.
Wilson scored a touchdown in the second quarter and a field goal in the third for its only scoring possessions of the game.
Statistically the Falcons were better all the way around against the Tigers. Frankie Johnson finished the night with 180 yards of total offense combined throwing for a 100 and running for 80 while Wheeler led the way rushing with 115 yards on the ground.
Elmo Johnson was the leading receiver finishing the night with 80 yards on two receptions.
Darlington is on the road again this week in Cheraw against the Cheraw Braves.
The Hartsville Red Foxes defeated the Lamar Silver Foxes 47-12 in the battle between the two county schools.