With two interceptions thrown and one fumble lost in the first half of the Region 6A crossover game, Whitefield (4-6) gave away any chance of an upset early and trailed 28-7 at halftime.
Near the end of the first quarter, the Wolfpack fumbled the ball and set Darlington (8-2) up at the Whitefield 10-yard line which led to a 14-0 Tigers lead, but Whitefield sophomore Ajani Kerr picked up the ensuing kickoff and sprinted 90 yards for a touchdown.
“I was real proud of Ajani. That was a big play for us,” Whitefield coach Jimmy Fields said.
The score cut the Tigers’ lead to 14-7, but Whitefield could not find the end zone again. Fields said he loved watching his team fight to the end.
“That was a tough way to end (Friday). It hurt, but it didn’t hurt,” Fields said. “Our kids are so resilient and they just kept coming back.”
As far as the playoffs were concerned, Whitefield was on the outside looking in before the game as the No. 18 team in the Class A rankings in the 16-team field. A win would have boosted the Wolfpack’s resume, but the loss may have ended their season. Darlington was the No. 4 team in the ratings before the game.
“A win (Friday) could have gone a long way in the power rankings, but our kids never backed down,” Fields said. “Darlington is well deserved of its ranking.”
Down 28-7 in the waning minutes of the first half, the Wolfpack got to the Tigers’ 5-yard line, but an interception in the end zone snuffed out the drive. Fields said a touchdown there, with his team receiving the kickoff in the second half, could have been a momentum-shifter. In the locker room, Fields said he told his players to focus on scoring on the opening drive of the second half.
“You need something good to happen and, obviously, when you turn the ball over that is not good,” Fields said. “We knew we were down three touchdowns coming out of the half and if we score, that would be huge. We drove the football, but we just couldn’t capitalize.”
The Wolfpack used a 55-yard screen pass — only 11 yards less then their entire first half offensive yardage total — and a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Darlington after a failed fourth down to get into the Tigers red zone, but failed on fourth down four plays later.
Darlington rushed for 435 yards and five touchdowns on 61 carries on the evening. The Tigers nearly had three 100-yard rushers as senior Chas Williams went for 137 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, senior Logan Rice rushed for 131 yards with two touchdowns on 14 carries and junior Trey Edge tallied 95 yards with a touchdown on 16 carries.
“This was a good win for us. Whitefield Academy played very hard and I thought they had a good scheme defensively,” Darlington coach Tommy Atha said. “Our kids made plays when they had to and I am extremely proud of them. We are just trying to take the next step forward to get ready for the playoffs.”