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Irmo bests Laurens in thrilling fashion to stay perfect Friday night

Yellow Jackets overcome serial turnovers in 28-21 victory over the Raiders

Columbia, SC (James Bowers)-The resurgence of the “Mighty Irmo” continued Friday night at W.C. Hawkins Stadium as Coach Reggie Kennedy’s 2017 varsity squad outlasted the Laurens Raiders in a down-to-the-wire 28-21 verdict.

The Jackets did not play an error-free game, fumbling three times, and letting Laurens recover two of those. Otherwise, the Irmo offense had a strong game, gaining 390 total yards.

The Yellowjacket’s quarterback, John Ragin, impressed the coaches and fans with 142 passing yards, and three of IHS’ rushing touchdowns, in a 55-yard ground performance. Another offensive standout for the Jackets was running back Jason Legette, who scored a touchdown and gained 106 yards on 20 carries.

The Jacket defense bent at times, but didn’t break, allowing Laurens 278 rushing yards, but also forcing three fumbles. Notable players for Irmo on that side of the ball were linebacker Jack Brooks, who seemed to be in on every tackle, and safety Kidre Diggs, who clinched the victory by pulling in a Lauren’s pass for an interception.

The game began with Irmo embarking on a long drive to the Laurens 22. That series was capped by a failure to convert on fourth down by Ragin. Laurens’ offense then crept into Irmo territory on a pass interference penalty, but Raider running back Troy Dendy was stuffed for a three-yard loss on a 4th-and-1 play. With the ball back in the Jacket’s hands, Ragin led Irmo on a 55 yard march; capping it with his own touchdown run to put Irmo on top 7-0.

After the first points were recorded on the board, there was some punt trading by the two offenses, before Laurens quarterback Ryan Campbell found a streaking Deonta Smith for a 47-yard passing touchdown, tying the contest at 7. Another long Laurens drive ended with a botched field goal, and the score remained 7-7 at halftime.

The Raiders got the ball back to start the second half, but a Dendy fumble at the Laurens' 33 put the Yellow Jackets deep in enemy territory. Unfortunately, Irmo failed to capitalize as Ragin fumbled, and Laurens’ Tay Anderson ran the recovery back to the to the Jacket 36. LHS did not turn the blunder into points and eventually, had to give the ball back to Irmo.

Lost fumble #2 for Irmo; this time out of the hands of running back Jansen McGahee, gave Laurens the ball at Irmo’s 27. Troy Dendy got every touch on this series, with rushes, of 2, 8 and 12 yards before finally punching it in from five yards out to give LHS a 14-7 lead.

After the kickoff, an Irmo drive stalled. Luckily, the Jackets picked up a Laurens fumble at the Raider 30. Receiver Raekwon Heath made a 26-yard grab to put Irmo on the LHS 4. Three plays later, John Ragin took it in himself on a QB keeper to tie things at 14.

Early in the fourth quarter, Irmo regained possession on their own 34, and launched a drive that could be called the Jason Legette show. The IHS senior running back had consecutive carries of 12, 9, and 16 yards. Then, Ragin pitched in and did his part by going on a 27-yard tear to the Laurens 2 yardline. On the next play, he gave the ball back to Legette on a 2-yard scoring play to put Irmo up 21-14.

After Laurens received the kickoff, Campbell drove the Raiders to the Irmo 34, but the series stalled, and ended in a punt. Pinned deep into their own territory, Irmo suffered a three-and-out. Making matters worse, IHS’ Cory Cates botched the punt which only traveled to the Irmo 22. It was scooped up by a Lauren's player, and was returned to the Jacket’s 14. Once again, the ball ended up in the hands of Laurens Troy Dendy who found the end zone from six yards away to make it a 21-21 affair with only 2:26 left in the game. What happened next was truly heroic.

Irmo’s Kendrell Flowers returned the kickoff to the 30. Ragin then found Heath for an 8-yard gain, but an incomplete pass, and a short Legette gain, put the Yellow Jackets in a fourth down situation. Irmo went for it by putting the ball back in the hands of Legette who came through for the Jackets with a 12-yard burst to get Irmo the chance at four more. Ragin then unleashed a bomb to Raekown Heath, who came down with the ball at the LHS 2. Ragin cemented his stellar performance for the night with a two-yard scoring plunge to put the Jackets ahead 28-21 with less than a minute remaining.

Laurens’ Campbell valiantly led the Raiders on one last effort to the Irmo 33, but an end zone heave was intercepted by Irmo’s Kidre Smith as time expired. The final score was Irmo 28, Laurens 21.

It was a watershed victory for Reggie Kennedy’s group. “I’m really happy for the kids, to see their hard work pay off,” Kennedy said of his team’s unblemished record. “We knew Laurens would be a physical football team with good skill guys, but I liked the way we responded up front”, Kennedy said of the contest. “Coach Liner does a good job with (Laurens), so I knew they’d be tough”.

Kennedy is in his third year with the program after stints at several schools including Blythewood and Fairfield Central. His reputation for rebuilding leads him to jokingly call himself the “quick fix it guy." Kennedy expressed gratitude at the Irmo administration for their patience and faith after tough seasons his first two years with the program.

Looking ahead to the Blythewood contest, Kennedy noted the unique nature of the Bengals offense, dubbed the Maryland triple option. He said that this scheme would present a nice challenge for his boys.

The Jackets will face Blythewood on Thursday, September 14 at Richland 1 Stadium in a conference game. Kickoff is slated for 7:30pm.

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