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Valiant Effort Falls Short, Gilbert Holds On To Win

By David Whatley

web posted October 14, 2017
SPORTS Playing an undefeated team, on the road, would seem to be an insurmountable obstacle, but the Strom Thurmond Rebels accepted the challenge, and traveled to Tomahawk stadium to face the Gilbert Indians for the regional contest.  Courageous and determined, the gritty Rebels played valiantly throughout the evening.

Gilbert won the coin toss and elected to defer until the second half, giving the visiting Rebels the first opportunity to play offense.  After fielding the kick off at the Thumond 42 yard line, senior Tyrek Williams lined up at quarterback to lead the Rebels in a three and out drive that resulted in negative yardage.  Thurmond punted from their own 36, but the excellent kick by senior, Lawson Reel, pinned the hosts on their own 18 yard line.

The 7-0 Indians took the field and in a commanding first drive that ran eight plays, covered the 79 yards with sophomore quarterback,  Josh Strickland connecting with senior wide receiver, Manny Bright for a 48 yard touchdown reception.  The point after attempt by Tanner Watson was successful, and Gilbert led 7 to 0.

Quarterback Jequan Harris returned to the lineup for the Rebel's second drive which began at the Thurmond 41.  This drive showed a bit more promise, and a glimpse at something from days past.  The Rebels used a huddle and ran from the "I" formation.  In the first three plays, running back Jaquan Edwards carried the ball.  The senior banged his way to the Gilbert 48 yard line in that trio of carries.  But then, a small loss, and a huge holding penalty put the Thurmond offense on it's own 36, where the Rebels failed to make a first down conversion.  The reliable foot of Lawson Reel delivered another good kick that Indian, Manny Bright caught at the Gilbert 30 after signaling for the fair catch.

Strickland's first pass to Manny Bright was called back for holding.  Junior running back, Cody Temples was used for some short yardage.  Strickland found Bright again for a first down, but the remainder of the drive sputtered leading the Indians to kick the ball from the Thurmond 44.  The punt pinned the Rebels on their own 10 yard line.

The twelve plays executed by Thurmond on the next 90 yard drive featured a ferocious ground attack that displayed multiple carries by Jaquan Edwards.  Jequan Harris finally capped it off with a 20 yard trot to the end zone.  The extra point try was good and the game stood tied with 5:40 left in the first half.

Sophomore wide receiver Matt Reed returned Reel's next kick off to the Gilbert 40, where new quarterback, Jy Tolen took the reins.  Tolen's first pass to running back, Deandre Cook netted a 1st down.  Then Cook ran for a couple of plays.  On 1st and 10 from the Rebel 30, Tolen was met at the line of scrimmage by middle linebacker, Ford Williams.  Tolen went to the air for a couple of short receptions, and handed to Cook for some more yardage.  On 1st and goal from the Thurmond 7 yard line, Tolen failed to gain any yardage on a quarterback keeper.  The next play moved Gilbert back to the Rebel 21 after a holding call.  Disaster struck the Thurmond defense on 2nd and goal from the 21, when The Rebels were called for interference, which, moved the ball to the Thurmond 10 yard line.  Two plays later, Tolen connected with senior wide receiver, Gage Sease for the touchdown.  Tanner Watson put the pigskin through the uprights and Gilbert was back in front 14-7.

Senior, A.J. Valentine returned the kick off to the Thurmond 40, where Harris and company took over.  Edwards ran for a 10 yard first down on the drive's first play, and then gained 3 yards on the next run, setting the Rebels up at the Gilbert 47.  A high snap on 2nd and 7 ruined the drive when Harris had to fall on the ball on his own 36 yard line.  Two plays later, Reel launched a huge punt that Gilbert fielded at their 10 yard line with 12.5 seconds remaining in the half.  The Indians took a knee and went to the locker room.

Second half action got underway with a bang with Reel's kick off to the Gilbert 25.  There, senior wide receiver, Jeremy Cintron fielded the ball and began his scamper toward the Indian goal line.  Rebel sophomore, Josh Pixley saved the touchdown tackling Cintron at the Thurmond 39.

The Indians first drive after the half was an inspired performance with an 11 yard pass to Gage Sease on 1st down.  The remaining 28 yards were covered by running back, Temples in four plays, with the final touchdown run from 1 yard out.  Watson's kick brought the score to 21-7 in favor of the host.

Not to be outdone, the Thurmond offense began a scoring drive of their own from their own 35 after receiving the kick off.  Three straight runs by Edwards netted a first down.  Another couple of runs by Edwards left the Rebels with 3rd and 4, from the Gilbert 49, then Harris connected to Tyrek Williams at the Indian 5 yard line.  Edwards ran for his 14th touchdown on the season, on the next play.  Reel's kick was good, and Thurmond closed the gap trailing 21-14.

The Gilbert offense went three and out, leaving punter, Jackson Digieso to kick from his own 31.  Wide receiver, Ty Johnson covered the punt at Thurmond's 44.

So promising was the next series of downs for the Rebels.  Edwards broke for a big gain to the Gilbert 41 on the first snap.  Then he ran again to the Indian 38.  His next run took Thurmond to the 21.  On 1st and 10 from the 21, Harris threw an interception that was caught at the Gilbert 5 yard line.  Thankfully, the Indians were unable to make use of the sudden fortune, and went 3 and out.  Their kick from their end zone was returned to the Gilbert 45.

Misfortune followed, when Thurmond also failed to capitalize.  After a 1 yard run by Edwards, he and quarterback, Harris collided in the backfield on 2nd and 9, losing a couple of yards.  A toss sweep to Edwards failed to gain the necessary yardage and the rebels rolled the dice, going for it on 4th down.  Edwards lost another yard and the Indians took over on downs exactly where Thurmond had started, at the Gilbert 45.

The Indians did manage another 1st down before the 3rd quarter expired, but on the first play of the 4th quarter, they had to punt from the Thurmond 41.  The kick rolled through the end zone and the Rebels took the field, starting at their own 20.

This set of downs was highlighted by a 49 yard run by Edwards on a 2nd and 7 situation from the Thurmond 23.  Now at the Gilbert 28, Tyrek Williams and Jaquan Edwards would combine to run the remaining 28 yards, with Edwards scoring on a 3 yard carry.  Reel's extra point tied the game at 21 each.

Matt Reed would return Reel's kick off to the Gilbert 37, where the Indians hoped to put this contest out of reach for the visitors.  Ten plays later, Temples caught a touchdown pass from Strickland to make it 27-21.  The point after was good and the Rebels trailed 28-21 with 5:18 left in the game.

Jaquan Edwards made a nice return on the ensuing kick off, making his way back to the Gilbert 49.  With excellent field position, Edwards clipped off another 11 yards on first and 10.  From the 38, Edwards ran to the 35.  He carried the ball again on the next down, bruising his way down to the Gilbert 25 for a 1st down.  Three more Edwards carries brought Thurmond to the Gilbert 19 yard line with 2:05 to play.  On 4th and 4, Harris was stuffed for a 1 yard loss, turning the ball over on downs, effectively ending the night for the Rebels.

Three victory formations later, the Gilbert Indians walked from the field with their perfect record intact.  The Strom Thurmond team fell to 4-4 on the season, and are 1-2 in region play.   


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