SYLVANIA - The Screven County Gamecocks have proven themselves to be a football power in the Coastal Georgia empire and are now set to prove themselves at a statewide level.
The Gamecocks (10-1) defeated Toombs County (6-5) by a score of 35-9 Friday night in the first round of the GHSA Class AA state playoffs at Kelly Memorial Stadium. With the win, Screven County advances to the second round of state for the fourth time in five years.
“This was a tough game where we had to battle,” Screven coach Ron Duncan said. “Toombs County isn’t a normal four-seed. They’re more like a two-seed.
“We missed some scoring chances early in the game and their offense is designed to not give you many chances. We had to refocus and get a great second half to win this one.”
Screven County entered Friday’s game as a No. 1 seed after winning Region 4-AA, but found a fourth-seeded Toombs County squad that was ready to play. The Gamecocks held just a 7-3 lead before taking over in their own territory with just over a minute to play in the half.
Screven quarterback Armani Bunbury - who is now the school’s single-season touchdown pass leader with 18 - connected on a pair of long passes, including a scoring strike to Tyquan Johnson and the Gamecocks led 14-3 at the half.
The game broke open early in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs received the opening kick of the third quarter and used a punishing ground game to press deep into SCHS territory, only to see Jeidon Sistrunk fumble at the 25.
Seizing the opportunity, Bunbury found Kashaun Robinson on a swing pass with Screven’s first play of the half and the speedy junior receiver raced 75 yards for a touchdown and a 21-3 lead.
“That really got us going,” Duncan said. “Our last touchdown before the half and that quick score in the second half was the difference in the game. After that, our offense really got going.”
Following a quick three-and-out by Toombs County, the Gamecocks regained possession near midfield. Bunbury converted a crucial 3rd-and-6 on an option keeper and soon after found Johnson for a 28-yard aerial strike.
The cycle repeated itself on the next possession as the Bulldogs punted again and Bunbury found Johnson again — this time from 38 yards out.
“Our passing game is something that we haven’t really needed the last few games,” Duncan said. “I was glad to see our passing really come through for us. We’re going to need everything to be working for us from here on out.”
With Screven County leading by more than 30 points as the game shifted to the fourth quarter, a running clock was put into effect.
A Bunbury fumble set up Toombs County with a short field and the Bulldogs reached the end zone for their only touchdown on a 1-yard run by Keshawn Morgan, but that was the beginning and end of any possible comeback as the Gamecocks easily ran out the clock.
With the win, Screven County remains alive in the chase for a state championship and also retains home field advantage via its No. 1 seed. Next Friday, the Gamecocks will face either Elbert County or Douglas of Atlanta, who will play tomorrow in Atlanta.
“We can’t wait for next week,” Duncan said. “And it will be great to stay at home. There was a great crowd tonight and our fans have supported us all year. We want to keep playing well for them.”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.