The Timberland High School football team won 36 games over the last four seasons but nary a victory celebration ensued the first game.
The 2019 campaign will be different, though.
The Wolves ended their opening-night blues with a hard-fought, 21-14 win over visiting Stratford High School on Friday. It was the first opening victory for Timberland since going 14-0 in 2014.
“Our kids just willed themselves to it,” THS coach Art Craig said. “It was a culmination of the work this group has put in since the spring. They’ve done everything I’ve asked them to do. They committed themselves to the weight room over the summer. We haven’t had a starter miss a practice.”
The Class 2A Wolves were motivated by having the shot at a Class 5A opponent and thoughts of 2018 weren’t too far away. Last season, Stratford continued Timberland’s futility in openers with a 20-6 win on Crowfield Boulevard.
Timberland dug down deep and had to run a bunch of newbies out there at times on Friday. The heat took its toll.
“We dressed about 35 kids and they dressed about 70,” Craig said. “We had kids catching cramps. We were playing kids who had never played a varsity snap before. They just did their job and didn’t worry about themselves individually. They put the team first.”
Timberland is off on Friday and hosts Berkeley County rival Cross High School on Sept. 6. The Wolves would probably rather get back out there and build on the Stratford win but they’ll have to slow it down and get back to basics.
“This is an opportunity for us to get in there and look at the film,” Craig said. “We still have a lot of things to get better at. It’s going to allow us to work on those things and get some younger kids some practice time so we can develop more depth on both sides of the football.”
Craig couldn’t name an MVP in the Stratford game. There were plenty deserving of recognition. He called it a team effort.
Running back Matt Williamson carried 18 times for 104 yards and scored on runs of 2 and 42 yards in the first half. On defense, Williamson made 12 stops to help lead that effort too.
In between Williamson’s touchdown runs, Jaleen Richardson took a punt back 83 yards for a score and Emmanuel Moultrie tacked on the 2-point run as the Wolves took a 14-7 lead in the second quarter.
The score was 21-14 at the break.
Running back Jamari Nelson, Moultrie and quarterback James Alston were contributors in the ground game as the Wolves racked up 224 yards rushing behind strong efforts up front from center Javar Jenkins, tackle Keon Bishop and tackle Jamaal McKinney.
Through the air, Alston was 5 of 10 for 43 yards, hitting Richardson twice for 24 yards.
Defensively, Jamaal McKinney made 10 tackles, two sacks and three tackles for loss. Jaylin Jefferson had nine tackles, two sacks and two tackles for loss. Dominick Milligan had nine stops and two tackles for loss.
Eldon Samuel made seven stops, while Richardson had five tackles and fumble recovery. Omari Jenkins was in on five stops and Alston jumped on a muffed punt.