Eagles still looking forward to playoff berth with 3rd Place finish in Region IV-AAAA
West Columbia, SC (James Bowers) - Kirk Burnett’s Eagles suffered another setback Friday, as they dropped their region final to the South Aiken Thoroughbreds by a 28-14 count. Airport put up a tough fight, forcing multiple turnovers on downs throughout the game, and tying the game at 14 going into halftime. In the end however, Chris Hamilton’s T-Breds had a little too much firepower for the Birds, and they improve to 7-2 on the year with the victory. South Aiken has finished second in the Region 4-4A race, behind champion North Augusta.
The game got off to a promising start for Airport. South Aiken was starting sophomore quarterback Jesse Sanders for the first time this season, and the young QB could not get anything going on SAHS’ first offensive series. Airport took possession and soon afterward the Eagles drew first blood on a drive led by QB Brandon Caughman. South Aiken soon answered with a touchdown of their own, but a blocked PAT kept Airport in front 7-6. In the second quarter, the T-Breds took the lead on another TD, and a 2 point conversion made it a 14-7 ballgame. Airport had another TD later in the period, and the game was a 14-14 deadlock at halftime.
Sanders marched his T-Breds downfield for a score on the opening possession of the second half, giving a 21-14 advantage to South Aiken. From there, the defense took over, as both the Eagle and T-Bred units ground opposing runners to a halt and deflected passes. However, several SAHS sacks of the Airport QB Caughman kept the Eagles' offense from adding to the board. Another South Aiken TD in the 4th Quarter brought the game to its final score, 28-14.
“I thought we played extremely hard. (South Aiken) was a team that took defending state champion South Pointe to three overtimes last year.” Eagles coach Kirk Burnett said. “We had some opportunities on offense, but he said they weren't able to play perfectl on offense all year. If we can play as hard as we did tonight, we’ll have a shot against Chapin next week”. Airport will travel to Chapin next Friday to take on the Eagles in the regular season final. Despite their 3-6 overall record, the Eagles 3rd place region finish assures them of a AAAA playoff bid.
On the winning side, South Aiken head coach Chris Hamilton was proud of his squad’s effort. There was concern going into the game as several key T-Bred players including usual starting QB Cody Boyton were suspended for their role in a brawl during last week’s North Augusta game. “We had some guys out tonight, but it's good to have a little adversity to overcome," Hamilton stated. “Once Jesse Sanders (new starting quarterback)figured it out, he did a good job”.
South Aiken closes its regular season against in-county rival Midland Valley next Friday. Their status as region 4-AAAA runner up will give them a favorable playoff seeding.
The Airport Eagles will face the Chapin Eagles at Chapin’s stadium on Columbia Avenue. That game is slated for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff on Fridaynight.