Seniors go out with a bang and Darlington makes history
By Drake Horton
A decade. Ten years. 3,652 or 3,653 days, depending on how many leap years fall in the decade. That is how long it has been since the Darlington Falcons last finished the regular season with a winning region record.
Ten years might not seem too long to some, but for sports fans 10 years can seem like an eternity that has no end in sight.
Lucky for Falcon fans, however, there is an end in sight and it happened to be this past Friday against the Manning Monarchs.
Already locked into third place in the region with secured a playoff spot, Darlington had nothing to lose going into what was a makeup game from earlier this season due to the flooding last month, and for all intents and purposes the Falcons could have rested its starters for this week’s playoff game against Georgetown.
Darlington had a different idea. This Falcon team has fought as hard as any Falcon football team in the last 10 years, and with it already being senior night this team wanted to end their season with a bang. It wanted to do something that had not been done since 2006.
Behind the plays of so many key seniors, Darlington soared past the Monarchs winning 41-34, but the score was way closer than the game ever was as the Falcons dominated and controlled the game from start to finish.
“I think our guys battled all year,” Darlington head coach John Jones said after the game. “I think they worked their tail off to get where we are at.”
The Falcons starters did not even play in the fourth quarter and most took a seat by the midway point in the third.
Darlington converted big play after big play, showcasing just how explosive this offense can be when it is clicking on all cylinders.
It all started in the first quarter on the first drive of the game. With less than two minutes ran off the clock Darlington’s Elmo Johnson found a crease and sprinted 57 yards for the first of his three touchdowns in the game.
Elmo’s other two touchdowns came on a 61-yard run in the second quarter and a 62-yard run in the third quarter. He finished the night with 196 yards rushing on just five carries.
“I had to bounce back,” Elmo said what drove him to have such a big night. “I had a couple of bad games against Marlboro and Hartsville so I just needed this game to bounce back and be ready for the playoffs.”
The big plays did not come all from the ground though, as quarterback Frankie Johnson, who has over 1000 yards passing and over 1000 rushing this season, showed why he is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the area.
Up 8-0, Frankie connected with Antonio Robinson for a 38-yard touchdown pass that increased the Falcons’ lead to 15-0 – and basically gave Darlington all the cushion it needed en route to its sixth win of the season. Frankie finished the night 7-12, through the air for 151 yards.
It was not all about the Johnson duo, however, as Thomas Wheeler showed why it is so important to have a balanced backfield with speed and strength. While Elmo and Frankie might possess the speed, Wheeler, who is not slow himself, is the bruiser, the power back and he showed that power off against Manning scoring from six yards out and one yard out.
Manning scored only 21 points against the starters in three quarters, while the Monarchs were able to score 13 in the fourth against the second string defense with the second string offense being held scoreless.
It is worthy to note though that both the second string offense and defense of Darlington was going against the first string of Manning.
Darlington’s overall regular season record comes to 6-4, and 3-2 in the region. The Falcons go on the road this week to take on Georgetown in the first round of the class 3A state playoffs.
Both Hartsville and Lamar were off this week.