An interception by St. James’ Justice Williams with 11.6 seconds left in the game sealed the deal as the Sharks beat Loris 32-28 last night during their home opener.
“I’m just happy for our kids and our program,” Norwood said. “We have worked so hard. We keep telling them every day to be patient, let us coach them and then do what they need to do on the field.”
Almost every time that the Lions took the lead on the night, the Sharks were able to answer immediately with points. That has not always been the case in previous seasons.
“The biggest difference tonight in the win was us being able to come back,” Norwood said. “I’m not sure St. James would always have done this. I am really proud of them doing that and making the plays that we had to make.”
St. James had the games opening points with a 24-yard field goal by Miles Herring at the 8:28 mark of the first quarter. Sharks quarterback Ethan White found receiver Randy Smith cutting up the field for a 39-yard touchdown toss giving the Sharks a 10-0 lead with just under three minutes in the first quarter.
Loris, however, quickly answered early in the second quarter narrowing the gap to 10-7. Both defenses stood tall the rest of the quarter and that was the score as the halftime horn sounded.
The Lions had some big rushes by their offense coming out of halftime and scored, going up 14-10 at the 6:56 mark in the third quarter. Two minutes later, running back Deondray Stanfield scored the first of his two touchdowns on the night putting the Sharks back ahead 17-14.
After that momentum changer, St. James drove the ball down the field again early in the fourth quarter but lost their lead after a fumble ended up being recovered in the end zone by a Loris defender, putting the Lions back up 21-17.
The Sharks went back to the sideline, regrouped and then went on a 13-play, 63-yard drive which was capped off by a touchdown by running back Malachi Butler. The offensive line pushed White into the end zone for a successful two-point conversion, giving the Sharks the lead at 25-21 with 3:29 to go in the game.
On their next possession, Loris went to the air, scoring on a successful drive with 2:41 minutes remaining taking the lead back away at 28-25.
The Sharks remained focused, driving the ball 69 yards up the field. Stanfield’s second rushing touchdown on the night gave St. James a 32-28 lead with only 24 seconds left in the game. That would be the final score and the game’s winning touchdown for the Sharks. The highlight of the drive was a successful double-pass by White and Garrett Smith to Stanfield.
“Deondray made some great plays tonight,” Norwood said. “He had a great catch on the double-pass.”
“I feel like we executed well,” Stanfield said. “We didn’t give up and that’s how you get it done.”
Stanfield led the offense with 71 rushing yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns despite coming to the sidelines a few times because of cramps. He also had 46 yards receiving.
“Cramps don’t mean anything when you have a game to win,” Stanfield said. “I had to overcome it.”
St. James had 20 first downs on offense led by White who threw for 136 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions on the night. White also had 30 rushing yards.
“This win feels great,” White said.
“We are trying to change the culture, and this is the first step in getting it done. “We made some mistakes but executed when we had to get it done.”
Butler has 59 yards running on 22 carries and one touchdown.
Smith had 6 catches for 79 yards and a touchdown.
According to Norwood, the Sharks played a lot better than they did last week in the Kick-Off Classic.
“I thought they rose to the occasion pretty much all night,” Norwood said.
“We gave Loris a couple of big plays on a long run and pass, other than that, we mostly bottled them up all night.”
One of the biggest reasons that the Sharks were able to win was the execution of their special teams’ plays on the night.
“I can’t say enough about our special teams tonight,” Norwood said.
“That was the difference in the game tonight for us. They were outstanding tonight.”
After the game, coaches, players, fans and school administration all gathered on the field to celebrate the victory.
“We all contributed as a team and have worked hard together so far this year,” defensive lineman Alex Barbee said.
“This win will make us stronger.”
“We have never had a season opener like this,” linebacker Buddy Smith said. “This win is great.”
The Sharks next scheduled game is set for Aug. 30 against Hilton Head.