In less than ideal field and weather conditions, Timberland and Bamberg-Ehrhardt went old-school football in their second-round Class AA Lower State playoff game.
Timberland overcame early mistakes and survived the visiting Red Raiders, 28-6 in St. Stephen.
Both teams leaned heavily on the running game early, mixing in enough passes to make things interesting.
Timberland senior quarterback James Alston had the better success in the air, throwing for 138 yards and a touchdown. Jamari Nelson had 55 receiving yards in the second half, while Jaleen Richardson had an 81-yard touchdown reception.
“We knew we would have to have some success in the passing game to have a chance to win,” Timberland coach Art Craig said. “That’s something we are able to do more than we have in the past. James can throw the ball and we have some guys who can make plays in space. We knew they were going to hunker down inside and take away the run, so we had to try something else. It worked out well for us.”
The game was tied 6-6 at halftime but the Wolves were fortunate to be in the game. Timberland lost two fumbles and threw an interception in the first quarter. Timberland’s defense answered, stopping the Red Raiders at the Wolves five-yard line with 2:36 left in the first quarter.
The Red Raiders scored first on a 16-yard run by Quentin Banks early in the second quarter. Timberland answered late in the period on the 81-yard pass from Alston to Richardson.
“I told the kids at halftime that everything bad that could happen did happen,” Craig said. “Getting that long touchdown pass was huge for us. I told the guys to just go play the way they are capable of playing in the second half.”
The Wolves needed eight plays to take the lead for good. Alston connected on two pass completions for 15 yards and Emanuel Moultrie scored from four yards out and Matthew Williamson added a two-point conversion for a 14-6 lead.
The Wolves dominated play in the second half, adding a Williamson 15-yard TD run with 5:51 to play in the game for a 20-6 advantage.
Another stop by the Timberland defense set the Wolves up inside the Red Raiders 30-yard line. Alston finished off the drive with a one-yard run, pushing the lead to 28-6 with 3:47 to play in the game.
“Our defense was lights out in the second half,” Craig said. “We got after them hard and really just kind of dominated the half.”
Defensively for Timberland, Williamson led the way with 15 total tackles while Sam Moultrie and Omari Jenkins chipped in 12 apiece. Richardson contributed 10 stops and Javar Jenkins eight.
“If was fun for me to see how dialed in they were (on defense),” Craig said. “We want to see if we can up that this week.”
Timberland (9-2) will hit the road Friday to play defending Class AA Lower State champion Barnwell, a 41-0 winner over Burke on Friday night. Barnwell eliminated Timberland, 32-6, last season in St. Stephen.
“They’re Barnwell, a great team and a great program,” Craig said. “We’re one of the final eight teams left in AA. We have as much a chance as anyone else. We’ll have to play well, better than we did tonight, but we have a shot.”
Comparing common opponents, Barnwell defeated Bamberg-Ehrhardt 28-12 in the regular season.
“We’re excited to go up there and see if we’ve gotten any better from last year,” Craig said. “If we play like we’re capable and don’t get shellshocked early, I like our chances.”
On the season, Alston has passed for 822 yards and seven touchdowns for the Wolves. Williamson needs 70 yards rushing to reach 1,000 yards. Nelson is at 859 yards rushing. Both have scored nine touchdowns on the ground.
Richardson has 269 yards receiving and four scores.
Independent reporter Rob Gantt contributed to this story