Swamp Foxes stay alive in region title race
For a while Ashley Ridge couldn’t catch a break against Beaufort on Thursday, but fortunes changed late in the game.
Among the first-half mishaps for the Swamp Foxes (4-5, 2-1 in Region 8-AAAA) were a pair of red-zone fumbles, including one into the end zone, and a touchdown pass negated on a holding penalty. The Eagles (6-3, 1-2) used the miscues to their advantage and opened the third quarter with a scoring drive to take a 21-7 lead.
However, Beaufort had some second-half blunders and Ashley Ridge created some luck of its own as the Swamp Foxes rallied to earn a 25-21 victory.
“All year we’ve blown opportunities to go up in the first half, lost momentum and never really recovered from it,” Ashley Ridge coach Kenny Walker said. “Tonight we were able to do it. We responded well to adversity and I hope our kids learn from it. Beaufort is a good football team. We beat a tough, physical team so this is a good sign for our program.”
Special teams were big for Ashley Ridge.
Senior Donavan Thompson had a 67-yard kickoff return that set up a Swamp Fox TD and a 77-yard punt return into the end zone to give Ashley Ridge a 22-21 lead with Matt Gable’s PAT kick.
“When I caught the punt I saw a big gap so I took the crease,” Thompson said. “It wasn’t just me, my team provided good blocking all the way to the end zone.”
On the ensuing kickoff return, Ashley Ridge forced a fumble that Swamp Fox junior Woodrow Jones recovered.
Beaufort thought it had dodged a bullet after a pair of AR penalties and a fourth-down incompletion, but a roughing the quarterback penalty kept the drive alive and Gable kicked a 32-yard field goal for the 25-21 Swamp Fox lead with just under five minutes remaining.
Beaufort didn’t lose hope. The Eagles drove 52-yards to the Ashley Ridge 11 in the closing minutes.
Jared Campagnone and Damon Smalls each put Beaufort in a jam with a tackle in the backfield, but the Eagles kept the drive going and completed some big passes to tight end Stephen Baggett and receiver Keaton Butler.
In the final minute, Beaufort took two shots at the end zone but defensive back Kendall Felder and linebacker Brandon Brown both batted passes down to end the drive.
“I was dropping back and I saw their tight end come behind me so I knew I had to make a play,” Brown said of his fourth-down breakup that returned possession to Ashley Ridge. “That guy is physical so we didn’t need him to get the ball.”
Ashley Ridge opened the game with a 65-yard scoring drive capped by a 25-yard TD run by Sean White. The Swamp Foxes held Beaufort to a failed field goal attempt on the Eagles’ first drive, but then things started to go awry for the Foxes.
Ashley Ridge drove into the red zone but then lost a fumble. Beaufort mounted a drive and capped it with a 16-yard TD run by Eric Blakely. The PAT kick failed to leave AR with a one-point lead.
However, the Eagles forced a punt and drove 75 yards to score on another Blakely run.
Ashley Ridge regained some momentum with a long drive of its own that resulted in a first down at the Beaufort 15-yard line with 37 seconds remaining in the half. A busted pass play sent quarterback Chandler Avenel scrambling and he broke a pair of tackles on a dash inside the 5.
He was met by a pair of defenders at the goal line and as he stretched out in an attempt to put the ball across the plane it slipped out of his hand and into the end zone. The fumble resulted in a touchback so the Eagles took over and one play later carried a 14-7 lead into the half.
After Blakely scored his third TD of the evening early in the third quarter, things began to turn around for Ashley Ridge.
Thompson returned the ensuing kick off to the Beaufort 32 and after taking a loss on a bobbled snap the Swamp Foxes scored with a 39-yard pass to Matt Linton. On the conversion play, AR lined up for a field goal but faked it. Avenel was the holder on the play but instead of placing it for the kick he rolled out and connected with Thompson for a two-point pass to cut the lead to 6.
Beaufort drove 69 yards on its next drive but then Blakely fumbled the ball into the end zone for another touchback. The rest of the third quarter belonged to the defenses and the fourth quarter belonged to the Swamp Foxes.
Both Avenel and Beaufort QB Ben Vaigneur threw for approximately 150 yards. AR wide out Dashaun Santiago and Linton both had 50 receiving yards. Ashley Ridge running back Tyler Garland and Blakely both rushed for more than 100 yards.
Ashley Ridge 7 0 8 10–25
Beaufort 0 14 7 0–21
A – Sean White 25 run (Matt Gable kick)
B – Eric Blakely 16 run (kick failed)
B – Blakely 15 run (Ben Vaigneur pass to Jeffrey Tookes)
B – Blakely 42 run (kick)
A – Matt Linton 39 pass from Chandler Avenel (Avenel pass to Donavan Thompson)
A – Thompson 77 punt return (Gable kick)
A – Gable 32 field goal
Contact Roger Lee @ 873-9424 ext. 213 or firstname.lastname@example.org