Matt Kelly was just what Brad Bowles needed — a tough, hardnosed leader that the Porter-Gaud community trusted. Now a week into the season, Kelly can add yet another superlative to his list.
The Cyclones junior quarterback has been voted the South Atlantic Bank Player of the Week for his four-touchdown performance in Porter-Gaud’s 35-28 season-opening win over Florence Christian.
Bowles was tasked with replacing a starting quarterback this summer in his first months as the Cyclones head coach. More than a quarterback, though, he needed someone that not only fit but could lead the culture he was trying to instill. He needed someone who could play his brand of football. Someone that could be one of his guys who was already one of the guys.
“He’s a Porter-Gaud kid,” Bowles said. “He’s extremely competitive. You can see it in every practice and every drill… He’s willing to do whatever it takes to be on the winning side.”
Kelly did a little of everything to will Porter-Gaud onto the winning side against Florence Christian, the top-ranked team and defending state champion in SCISA AA.
He carried the ball 12 times for 82 yards, an average of 6.8 per carry. Three of his 12 carries resulted in touchdowns. Several more resulted in crucial first downs that sustained drives.
His first touchdown run placed Porter-Gaud within a point, 8-7, in the first quarter. His second pulled the Cyclones within two scores, 28-14, with 23 seconds left in the second quarter. The last-minute touchdown run swung the momentum the rest of the night, Bowles said.
Kelly threw for a modest 58 yards. He was efficient, though, hitting three of six attempts. He connected with Tobias Lafayette on a 28-yard score with 41 seconds left in the third quarter to pull Porter-Gaud within a score, 28-21. Then he ran in an 11-yard score, the eventual game-winning touchdown, with five minutes left.
"It's been a long time coming for Matt," Bowles said. "Tonight was something I think everybody wanted to see from him. It's something that people have known for a while that he's capable of. To watch him have that kind of success and the way the kids rallied around him tells you what type of kid he is."
Oceanside’s Keegan Williams finished second in fan voting, followed by First Baptist’s Will Daniel and Philip Simmons’ Tyler Harper.
Fans can cast their ballots at moultrienews.com/potw2019 each week to decide the best performance of the area’s local high school football games. Players from Academic Magnet, Bishop England, First Baptist, Oceanside, Palmetto Christian, Philip Simmons, Porter-Gaud and Wando will all be considered. Each week’s winners will earn an automatic bid into the South Atlantic Bank East Cooper Player of the Year contest at the end of the season.
Voting opens each Wednesday at 12 a.m. and will close the following Sunday at midnight. Fans who register and vote will be entered into a random drawing for a $25 gift card each week.
Week 1 nominations
Drew Owens, LB, Bishop England
Bishop England senior linebacker Drew Owens posted a team-best 11 tackles in the Bishops’ 31-12 season-opening win over Baptist Hill on Friday.
Nine of Owens’ 11 tackles were solo efforts and two were for a loss. He also logged three sacks and forced a fumble for a Bishops defense that didn’t allow a point until the fourth quarter.
Sean Cooney, QB, Oceanside
Oceanside senior quarterback Sean Cooney threw for a career-high 364 yards and three touchdowns in the Landsharks’ 49-7 win over Savannah Christian on Friday.
Cooney completed 68 percent of his attempts, hitting seven different receivers and averaging 21.4 yards per completion. He finished with a quarterback rating of 150.4.
Braden Pritchard, QB, Wando
Wando junior quarterback Braden Pritchard passed for 253 yards and scored three touchdowns in the Warriors’ 32-14 season-opening win over Summerville on Friday.
Pritchard completed 65 percent of his attempts, hitting six different receivers and averaging 11 yards per completion in his first career start with the Warriors. He also ran for 21 yards on four carries, including a 4-yard run that sealed the win in the fourth quarter.
Davian Brown, RB, First Baptist
First Baptist eighth-grade running back Davian Brown rushed for 90 yards and scored four touchdowns in the Hurricanes’ 56-16 win over Burke on Friday.
Brown averaged 7.5 yards per carry, running for three scores in his first career varsity start. He also recovered a blocked punt and returned it 10 yards for a touchdown.