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Rebels Sting Hornets for Opening Victory 20-14

By Tim Crane
web posted August 22, 2015

SPORTS – White jerseys for a home game?  Worked out pretty good for the Rebels (1-0) in the thrilling season opener against Aiken High (0-1) on Friday night in Johnston. Senior middle linebacker Sanchez Singleton recovered an Aiken fumble on the 41 yard line at the 6:44 mark of the 1st quarter. 

Seven plays later the Rebels were driving for a score when Deandre Ryan lost control of the ball as he was attempting to stretch out for a touchdown- the ball rolled past the goal line then made an immediate right turn behind the pylon and trickled out of bounds resulting in a touchback instead of a touchdown. 

The Strom Thurmond Rebels did not get discouraged, instead they were encouraging each other throughout the entire game. “We had a great devotion this week at practice.  Everyone on this team understands how important it is to be positive and uplifting to their teammates. After any miscues tonight, you could hear the players supporting each other. It was awesome. We all over came so much adversity tonight and pulled it out” stated Rebel Head Coach Antwaun Hillary. 

Blue Steel safety Malik Nicholson broke up a 3rd down pass attempt, giving the Rebels their 1st three and out of the season and picking the Rebels up after the previous miscue. An Aiken punt that netted four yards provided the ball to the Rebels at the Aiken 31 yard line with 3:01 to go in the 1st quarter. 

Seven plays later Tyrece Nick tossed a screen pass to Chad Gilchrist while the Rebels were facing a 4th down and 6 at the Aiken 15 yard line, center Corley Christie opened the path with a block and Gilchrist did the rest, crossing into paydirt for a score. Lawson Reel split the uprights and the Rebels led 7-0 with 13 seconds to go in the 1st quarter.

Gilchrist shined on both sides of the ball, playing the majority of the snaps on this hot August night.  On the ensuing drive he sacked Aiken quarterback Bryson Jones on 3rd down to force a Hornet punt. But a roughing the punter called on Strom Thurmond, gave the ball back to Aiken. Again, the Rebels didn’t get down or give up. Instead they kept fighting. 

A tipped Bryson Jones passed was snagged out of the air by one hand from Malik Nicholson at midfield and then he returned it 31 yards to the Aiken 19 with 7:58 to go before half. A stalled drive and missed 32 yard field goal attempt allowed the Hornets to not fall behind by two scores. 

It looked like the Blue Steel was going to hold for a quick three and out when Marcus Pollard grabbed the snap on a fake punt, 4th and 1 at the 29 yard line, before rushing 22 yards to the Rebel 49 yard line. With 3:05 remaining in the first half, for the first time of the night Aiken found itself on Thurmond’s side of the field.

Three plays later Hornet quarterback Bryson Jones broke off a 40 yard touchdown run to put Aiken on the board.  Malik Nicholson blocked the point after attempt, holding the Rebels lead 7-6 with 1:31 to play in the 2nd quarter.

A Gilchrist fumble on the ensuing kickoff returned the ball right back to Aiken at the Rebel 38 yard line. 

The Blue Steel defense took possession on the very next play when Deandre Ryan picked off a Bryson Jones pass and returned it 51 yards to the Aiken 38 yard line. The Rebels didn’t turn this into points, but they went into halftime with the lead.

Aiken grabbed the lead with 5:14 to go in the 3rd quarter on a busted play in which Bryson Jones went 51 yards for a touchdown, this coming a few plays after Strom Thurmond quarterback Tyrece Nick was intercepted by David Harris. Jeremiah Green scampered into the endzone converting the two point attempt and Aiken went up 14-7.

Momentum appeared to be on Aiken’s side after forcing a Rebel three and out, but Malik Nicholson recovered a Jeremiah Green fumble at the 20 yard line with 2:37 to play in the 3rd with the Rebels still down 14-7. 

Tyrece Nick connected with DeAndre Ryan for a seven yard touchdown pass with 46 seconds remaining in the 3rd quarter. Ryan slipped through two defenders on his way across the goal line. However, Aiken blocked the extra point attempt and the Rebels trailed 14-13 going into the final quarter. 

And the final quarter didn’t disappoint as the packed out home side crowd was on their feet for the nearly the duration of the 12:00 minutes. 

With 8:44 remaining in the game the Rebels took over at their 39 yard line.  A healthy dose of bruising running back Chad Gilchrist set up a four yard DeAndre Ryan touchdown on a jet sweep play in which Ryan cut back and drove thru two defenders, forcing himself across the goal line for what would prove to be the game winner.  Lawson Reel’s point after put the Rebels up 20-14 with 5:09 to play in the game.

Aiken drove the ball down to the Rebel 20 yard line but Chad Gilchrist picked off Avery Brown’s pass at the 10 yard line with 12 seconds remaining to seal the deal. 

“I’m just so proud of how hard these guys fought tonight and the way they never got down or gave up. Aiken has a good ball team-they are huge and athletic.  Our defensive line played their tails off to get pressure all night. Our linebackers, safety and corners went at it all night.

I thought the offensive line did tremendous considering the size difference they were up against.  That’s what Strom Thurmond football is all about.  There is a lot of pride and tradition here.  We overcame mistake after mistake and found a way to win.  I’m just very proud of this team tonight.”  Head Coach Hillary stated.

“We’ll take next week to work on some stuff and just keep trying to improve week by week. What an atmosphere tonight, the crowd out here supporting us was just awesome” said Coach Hillary. 

A lot of schools have tradition and pride but what separates the tradition of Strom Thurmond football from the rest is the community support, pride and passion.  Throughout the years Oldies KSX has been a mainstay support of Rebel football through the airways. This season marks the 30th anniversary of the Johnston based station going to FM. The Pro Crew brings top notch coverage to Strom Thurmond Football each Friday during football season. 

This season Steve Smith enters his 25th season as the Voice of the Rebels, Billy Keesley is in year 30 on sideline reporting and Andy Livingston begins his 37th season. Josh Berry, the man behind the scenes pushing buttons at the station, is in his 10th season.    

The Rebels (1-0) will be off next week before hosting Silver Bluff (0-1) on 9/4.  

Recap by quarter:
           1st  2nd  3rd  4th  Final     penalty yards    first downs     total offensive yards
    A       0    6     8     0      14             7-65                11                      200
   ST      7    0     6     7      20              6-50                 9                      218

Individuals for Strom Thurmond
Tyrece Nick 9-13-57 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception

Tyree Nick 13-63 yards
Chad Gilchrist 17-92 yards
Deandre Ryan 1-4 yards, 1 touchdown     
Jalen Simpkins 1-1 yards

Deandre Ryans 4-16 yards, 1 touchdown
Chad Gilchrist 1-15 yards, 1 touchdown
Tyrek Williams 3-22 yards
Jalen Simpkins 1-4 yards

Lawson Reel 2-3 P.A.T’s,  2 punts-48 yards.


What’s Next:
Rebels (1-0) are off next week.
Aiken (0-1) travels to South Aiken.

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