CJ Wright’s star shone as bright than ever Friday night, as his 190 yards and three touchdowns propelled Screven County to a 28-20 win over Douglass.
As if his rushing performance wasn’t enough, Wright would ultimately help win the game on defense. Douglass’ final drive saw two big completions work the Astros down to the Screven 43 yard line with 22 seconds left.
On a 3rd-and-10, Douglass quarterback Jonathan Ford found a gap in the pocket and looked to take off for a big gain — but Wright with one arm caught Ford from behind and rodeo-style slung him to the ground for the game ending sack. The clock ran out, and Screven will now go to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2002.
“Words can’t even explain how I feel right now,” Wright said. “It’s amazing, the coaches, the seniors and the team — we all feel amazing.”
While Screven never really lost control over the game, Douglass never faded away. The Astros’ first drive of the second half ended in a 36-yard screen pass from Ford to Ezekiel Njoku, who weaved in and out of the blockers in front of him to score and put Douglass up 14-13 following a 2-point conversion run by Ford.
But Screven was quick to respond. The following drive saw Wright carry the ball three times for 28 yards on a 58-yard drive, which ended in the junior scoring on an outside run from 13 yards out. Then just for good measure, Wright carried in the 2-point conversion as well to bring the Gamecocks back in front 21-14.
“I have to thank God tonight,” Wright said. “Without God this doesn’t happen. And my teammates pushed me too.”
After a sack forced a Douglass 3-and-out, Screven got the ball back at their own 45. The Gamecocks would then put together a 10-play, 55-yard drive with Wright breaking off the biggest run on a 20-yard lollip with Douglass players dangling off his six-foot, 285 pound frame.
Wright followed up by punching in his third score from the one yard line, putting Screven up 28-14 at the beginning of the fourth quarter. But Douglass, ever the pest they were, would answer two drives later.
The Astros would work their way down the field from their own 27 yard line on a series of big completions from Ford, then a run from the senior QB would bring his team from the Screven 18 to inside the 10. Screven’s defense held on second and third down from the one, but finally broke on fourth down to make it a 28-20 game.
“We had the right calls in, but we had some missed assignments,” said head coach Ron Duncan. “They were hard to keep contained. They had tremendous athletes.”
But the game couldn’t have started better for Screven. The offense ran their textbook style on the opening drive of the game, driving 59 yards down the field on eight runs. CJ Wright broke off a 34-yard run on a 3rd-and-4, followed by a 14-yard scamper by Kim Hunter to get the Gamecocks inside the ten yard line.
It took Screven five tries, but on 4th-and-goal from the one Wright punched in the first score of the ball game, all while eating almost four and a half minutes off the clock.
Douglass’ first two drives netted 18 yards on 11 plays, as Screven’s defense would tighten up to hold after giving up a first down in both drives.
Screven may have made it 14-0 in the first quarter, had they not miscalculated an option pitch inside the Douglass 40 yard line. But their third drive would yield better results.
Following a false start to push Screven back to a 2nd-and-13, Armani Bunbury faked the dive on a triple option play and then faked a pitch to Hunter — giving him a big enough seam to roll 45 yards untouched down the sideline for Screven’s second score.
“He’s gotten to be a great manager,” Duncan said, on Bunbury only touching the ball seven times (four rush, three pass). “He’s unselfish. Tonight lent itself to a running game.”
The Gamecock’s offensive fortunes would halt near the end of the second quarter, as Hunter would cough up the ball on Screven’s final two drives — the first inside the Screven 25 yard line.
Although he can’t be completely to blame, as it was initially recovered by Lewis Wallace and gained about four yards before he got stripped and Douglass’ finally fell on top of the ball.
“Kim hasn’t had but one or two fumbles this year,” Duncan said. “The second one was on the part of indecision. If you take those two away we’re probably not sweating so much at the end.”
Courtesy of back-to-back ten-yard runs by Keyon Coley, Douglass found themselves at the threshold of the Screven endzone. On 3rd-and-goal Douglass appeared to shoot themselves in the foot with a false start penalty, but it was negated the next play by an offsides on Screven.
Jonathan Ford would score on an option run of his own, electing not to pitch and instead ran the ball in himself to cut the deficit to seven points.
On top of Wright 190 yards on 21 rushes and three touchdowns, he would also finish with a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss. While Bunbury, Kashawn Robinson and Kendrick Cox would all have solid games for Screven — Wright rose above to bring Screven out on top.
“He’s a great player,” Duncan said. “He’s a bull. When you have a bull you need to ride him in games like these.”
For Douglass, Njoku three catches for 89 yards and a score stood out from his peers — but two wide-open drops in the middle of the field will haunt the senior as his career ended on Kelly Memorial Field.
Screven County (11-1) will now face the No.1 seed from the other quadrant of the bracket, Callaway (12-0). Per the coin flip going Screven's way, they will now host Callaway next Friday at 7:30.