Red Foxes open 2019 campaign with win over Bruins
By Rob Teal
The Hartsville Red Fox football team made the short trip to Florence on Friday night to take on the South Florence Bruins. It was a beautiful night for high school football in the Pee Dee. Many are expecting a rebuilding year for Jeff Calabrese and company after losing more than 30 players from last year’s 12-1 to graduation.
The contest started in typical Week One fashion. Both teams had their fair share of mistakes throughout the contest. Hartsville was forced to punt the ball on each of it's first three possessions after failing to get any offense going. And each punt was eventful with low snaps and significant pressure by the Bruins’ special teams.
South Florence’s offense wasn’t much better on their first few drives either. It wasn’t until the 7:00 mark in the second quarter that the Bruins got the games scoring started. Hashaun Wilson took a handoff from LaNorris Sellers, stormed up the middle of that strong Red Fox defensive line for the toughest one yard run of his career and a Bruin touchdown. The PAT made it 7-0 South Florence.
The seven point lead wouldn’t last for long though. After each of South Florence’s touchdown drives, the Red Foxes responded in a BIG way.
Hartsville went to the passing game on their fourth possession of the night and that proved to be a great decision. #5 Owen Taylor tossed a 32 yard pass to #2 Javion Hough that put the Red Foxes on the Bruin 38 yard line. The junior quarterback then hit #8 Tyrek Mills for 8 yards and then connected with #7 Tate Hawkins for 24 yards to move the ball inside the 10 yard line. A couple of plays later Taylor kept it himself on a QB keeper and found pay dirt for the first Red Fox points of the 2019 season. The extra point attempt was blocked, leaving South Florence with a 7-6 lead.
The first offensive points of the season appeared to light a fire under #25 Alex Hunt and the Red Fox defense. They stopped the Bruins three and out on their next possession. A drive where they actually went backwards and were forced to punt the ball back to Hartsville with 2:19 left in the first half.
#5 Owen Taylor picked right up where he left off on the previous drive and hit #2 Javion Hough for the longest play from scrimmage on night. The beautiful pass and catch went for 45 yards and put the Red Foxes all the way down to the Bruin 1 yard line. Taylor punched it in the end zone on another QB keeper. After Chase Elsesser’s PAT soared through the uprights, the Red Foxes led 13-7 at the half.
Special Teams played a large roll throughout the contest, especially in the second half. The Bruins lined up like they were going to go for it on 4th and 12 from midfield. Instead the South Florence quarterback executed a “Quick Kick” and punted it all the way down inside the Red Fox 3 yard line. After a three and out, the Bruins blocked #35 Leland Saxton’s punt and recovered the ball at the Red Fox 9. South Florence’s Sellers came out and hit Tyae McWhite for an eight yard touchdown strike. That touchdown pass tied the game at 13.
The extra point attempt that followed would prove to be biggest turning point of the game. The momentum was certainly on the Bruins side at this point. The snap was good. The hold was solid. And we will never know what the kick would’ve looked like thanks to the great effort of #11 Justin Abraham, #6 Keyshawn McDonald and the stingy Red Fox defense. The PAT was blocked and the score remained 13-13 with 6:14 left in the game.
Hartsville started the next drive on its own 32 and they took advantage of the momentum created on the blocked extra point. Taylor connected with #7 Tate Hawkins for a 38 yard gain. #3 Darian McMillan followed that up with a tough 21 yard run down to South's 9 yard line. At this point you could cut the suspense in South Florence's Memorial Stadium with a knife. On third and goal from the 2 the Red Foxes recovered a Taylor fumble on the Bruin 4. That’s when first year place-kicker and this week’s Shoney's Offensive Player of the Week, Chase Elsesser entered the game and nailed a 21 yard game winning field goal .
The defense played really well and only allowed the Bruins to gain 160 yards of offense on the night. The Shoney’s Defensive Player of the Week is #11 Justin Abraham. The offense made some mistakes but battled extremely hard all night, They ended up with 263 yards of total offense for the game. The Shoney’s Offensive Player of the Week is #37 Chase Elsesser. Congratulations for your performances in this season opening game.
The execution wasn't always pretty for the Red Foxes. There is plenty of things that need to be corrected and cleaned up before Hartsville takes the field next Friday. However, the attitude and effort that was shown by this squad not only led them to a big victory over the South Florence Bruins, but it is something that should make the Red Fox community proud. I'll see you at Kelleytown Stadium next Friday at 7:30pm when the Hartsville Red Foxes welcome the Bulldogs of Camden High School.