WINNSBORO — The Upper State Championship battle between Fairfield Central (10-2) and Newberry (11-2) looked like a heavyweight bout with two great defenses with two solid running games.
But with both ground games shut down, head coaches Phil Strickland and Demetrius Davis would turn to their stellar quarterbacks.
Yafari Werts and Stanley McManus combined for nearly 400 passing yards and the fireworks were worthy of the Fourth of July.
In the end, though, the Griffins fell to Newberry 24-10 despite more offensive yards than the Bulldogs on the night.
Davis said afterwards that the Griffins had missed some opportunities.
“We didn’t quite make the plays we needed to make, and they made the plays when they needed to make them,” he said.
The Bulldogs were also helped by several key penalties by both the offense and defense from Fairfield Central.
“We got some penalties that became drive killers,” Davis said. “We’d make a big play and get a foolish penalty, and it messed up our momentum.”
As the saying goes, you have to play well enough to beat the other team and the officials. The Griffins looked at times that they were going to do that, especially early on.
“All in all, whenever you play a team like Newberry, you don’t get a lot of opportunities and you got to be able to capitalize when you get those opportunities and we didn’t do it,” he said.
After a solid defensive stop, Fairfield Central opened on offense with a 26-yard pass from McManus to Raekwon Butler.
The Griffins looked to be on their way to score when a personal foul slowed their momentum.
McManus was dropped for a 9-yard loss and the Griffins were forced to punt.
Newberry then did what they do best. Amir Abrams carried the ball five times on the ensuing drive, punishing the Griffin defense.
When Fairfield Central crowded the line, Werts went to the air for a 23-yard touchdown pass to Kaleb Rosemond.
Fairfield Central would again get a solid drive, this time with McManus leading the charge through the air.
McManus completed four consecutive passes and, coupled with Jerrell Suber-Oneal runs in between, took the Griffins inside the Newberry 30-yard line.
It was there the Bulldog defense stiffened. McManus missed his next two passes and the Griffins turned the ball over on downs.
The Bulldogs used a big pass from Werts to Zyearrious Towns to get into Griffin territory, and then a personal foul from the Griffins took them into the red zone.
The Fairfield Central defense got the stop at the 6-yard line when they forced an incomplete pass from Werts.
The Bulldogs finished the scoring for the half with a field goal for a 10-0 lead.
The Griffins began the second half looking to close the gap. McManus found Zhivago Hearndon for 50 yards on the half’s first play, but a personal foul brought them back to their own 35.
McManus would not be denied though and completed a 30-yard pass to Raekwon Butler to get the Griffins to the Newberry 30.
The Bulldog defense would not give up the touchdown and Austin Gregory kicked a 27-yard field goal to bring the Griffins to within a score.
Newberry answered, with Werts finding Towns for a 55-yard touchdown pass.
On the ensuing drive, McManus took his offense up the field, this time finding Hearndon again for a 28-yard pass. McManus used a nifty pass fake and a quick scramble to go 29 yards for the only Griffin touchdown on the night.
After trading punts, the Bulldogs again turned to Werts. On second and long, Werts completed a 15-yard pass to Shy Williams. Three plays later he would again find Towns, this time for a 17-yard touchdown pass.
Despite moving up to 3A, Fairfield does have Newberry scheduled in 2016. The Griffins will lose four starters to graduation.
Reach James Inabinet at 803-635-4016.