Indians within one game of Region 5-AAA title.
Gilbert, SC (James Bowers) - Gilbert High School football coach Chad Leaphart wore a relieved smile as he chatted with fans during postgame at Tomahawk Stadium Friday night. His Indians came up on the long end of a 28-21 affair with a feisty Strom Thurmond ballclub.
The Rebel, Indian contest had nearly everything. Officials were busy, as the two squads had a combined nine penalties for 75 yards. The chain crew also turned up with regularity, owing to the tenacity of Thurmond’s and Gilbert’s ball carriers.
Gilbert got on the board first in the opening quarter, when quarterback Josh Strickland connected with wideout Manny Bright for a 52 yard touchdown. Strom Thurmond’s defense was able to keep the Indians at bay for the rest of the half, and their offensive counterparts evened the score with 5:40 left in the 2nd quarter. Rebel quarterback Jequan Harris found the end zone from 21 yards out to make it a 7-7 ballgame. Gilbert answered very quickly, with Jy Tolen hitting Gage Sease for a five yard touchdown, putting the Indians back on top 14-7 with 1:16 left in the half.. The teams took this score to the locker room.
The second half was a wild one. Gilbert took possession first, and the result was a lengthy drive, capped with a one-yard Cody Temples' touchdown to extend the Indian lead to 21-7. Strom Thurmond then marched the ball deep into GHS territory, only for Gilbert’s John Stewart to intercept a Jequan Harris pass around the Indian 5. The subsequent Gilbert possession was fruitless and forced punter Jackson Digieso to kick out of his own end zone. Strom Thurmond took advantage of the comfy field position, and a four-yard touchdown from STHS running back Jaquan Edwards cut the Gilbert lead to 21-14 with 7:45 to play in the 3rd. The two teams did little with the football for the rest of that quarter, and the score remained fixed heading into the final period.
Strom Thurmond was smelling upset as another Edwards TD tied the game at 21 with 8:30 remaining. Gilbert got the football back, and their next possession was a heart stopper. Faced with a 3rd and 24 after failing to connect with receiver Gage Sease, Gilbert field general Josh Strickland did not lose his poise, making a 24 yard completion to sophomore receiver Matt Reed. Reed’s only reception saved a drive that concluded with another touchdown pass to Cody Temples from 15 yards away with 5:18 remaining in the game. Gilbert had a 28-21 lead.
Strom Thurmond Head Coach Antwaun Hillary’s crew was not about to lay down or let the night slip away. Jequan Harris led the Rebels on a valiant march deep into Indian territory. Faced with 4th down in the Gilbert red zone, Harris and company were forced to go for it all. They were denied, and Josh Strickland was able to run the clock out on Gilbert’s 8th straight win.
“I knew it was gonna be hard fought. Strom Thurmond is a proud program, and they battled us.” Gilbert Coach Leaphart said. “We’ve had some tight moments this year, and our kids have responded the right way in all of them.”
Leaphart was complimentary of the Gilbert offensive line, who gave QB Strickland plenty of time to complete 11 of his 20 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns. Most of these went to rangy receiver Manny Bright, who had 7 grabs for 87 yards and a score. Gage Sease also produced at that position with 3 snags for 38 yards. Indian RB Cody Temples only had 59 yards on the ground, but had both a rushing and receiving touchdown. Jeremy Cintron was the Indians’ defensive leader, making six and a half tackles, two for loss. Jacob Smith added a sack, and John Edwards had a huge interception at the Gilbert 4.
The Rebels, now 4-4, were led by running back JeQuanEdwards, who had 255 yards on 41 carries and two scores. Quarterback Harris threw only three passes, but completed two of them for 42 yards and a touchdown. Tyrek Williams caught both of these, and also had 3 rushes for 12 yards and one score.
Antwaun Hillary’s club may be .500, but they played a tough ballgame and will regroup quickly ahead of another road game against 3-5 Pelion on October 20. Meanwhile, Coach Leaphart will take his undefeated Indians to Cordova next Friday for a showdown with Edisto High School, also 3-5. A Gilbert win in that game gives them the Region 5-3A championship. Leaphart is definitely not taking anything for granted, however. “They play pretty good defense. It’ll be a tough game”.
According to MaxPreps, the kickoff time for Gilbert-Edisto has yet to be set. Most high school games have been consistently starting at 7:30 p.m. The stadium is located at 105 Fairey Road, Cordova, SC.