Porter-Gaud tailback Allan Walters plows into the end zone in the first quarter to tie the game. Travis Barnett (hands up) reacts to the touchdown.
The Palmetto Christian Academy football team is for real.
With its second best running option hampered by leg cramps, a defensive back being treated at the Medical University of South Carolina and a sideline drawing comparisons to a MASH unit, Palmetto Christian cruised past Porter-Gaud 62-49 in the state's first high school game of the season on Tuesday night.
J.T. Waters, a SCISA all-state quarterback last season, finished with over 600 total yards (308 rushing, 296 passing), eight touchdowns (six rushing, two passing) and one interception.
“We knew what we had to do,” Waters said, who has unofficial scholarship offers from Wingate and Newberry. “We had a scheme, and we perfected it. We knew what we had, and we knew what they had.”
Coach Jim Daniel called it the program's biggest win “without a doubt,” ranking it higher than the 2009 state semifinal playoff win. Waters agreed: “It's awesome,” the four-year starting quarterback said. “This is probably the biggest game in this program's history, and I'm happy to be a part of it.”
On the first day of official practice, Daniel referred to this game as a measuring stick to see how much more the Eagles needed to improve before considering themselves among SCISA's elite. “To be honest with you, we put this game on the schedule to get closer than last time we played them,” Daniel said. “For these guys to step, and these seniors to take over and take control, I'm proud of them.”
After tailback Ryan Roe scored the game's first touchdown on a goal line run, Porter-Gaud scored the next 21 points to end the first quarter. In the second, Waters scored for the first time on a short run to cut the deficit to 21-14.
Porter-Gaud's next possession included four plays in the Palmetto Christian red zone, but on fourth and 10, the Cyclones did not kick a short field goal and suffered a turnover on downs. The Eagles promptly went 98 yards on two plays, converted the two-point conversion and took the lead. They never looked back.
Waters scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to thwart any Porter-Gaud comeback attempt. The Cyclones enjoyed two long passing touchdowns in the final two minutes to bring the final score closer.
Depth and defense are Palmetto Christian question marks this year, but at Porter-Gaud Tuesday night, they complemented the win with several freshmen being thrown into action and the primary defensive unit allowing only 35 points to the 3A Cyclones.
“We can plug them in and go,” Waters said of the team's fluid roster. “We have confidence in every player out there.”
Porter-Gaud was led by sophomore quarterback Steven Duncan, who threw for 297 yards and five touchdowns.
Check out reporter Tyler Heffernan's blog for more information on the game.