Irmo returns to James Island for berth in Lower State final

By Thomas Grant Jr.

It’s been 13 years since the Irmo High School football team advanced to the third round of the Class 4A playoffs.

After the Yellow Jackets defeated Myrtle Beach 55-24 to improve to 12-0, thoughts quickly turned to one year ago.

It was a second-round matchup at James Island. Irmo had taken a one-point lead in the final minute when the Trojans got in position to set up a game-winning field goal by Gray Dangerfield for the 22-21 win.

The Yellow Jackets find themselves returning to the scene of the crushing loss. This time, they face a 12-0 James Island team with a chance to once again reach the Lower State final.  

It’s an opportunity the team does not want to squander for a second straight year.

“It’s definitely a motivation, but it’s like every other game also,” quarterback A.J. Brand said. “Nothing crazy. We want to play our game. Going into this week, we have to prepare right for a team that we should have a little bit on and a little sour taste in our mouth about last year.”

Brand is coming off a performance in the 55-24 win over Myrtle Beach in which he tallied 312 total yards and four touchdowns. He’s 88 yards shy of 1,000 rushing yards to go with 2,624 passing yards and he has 60 total touchdowns.

Jaden Allen-Hendrix, a Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Bowl running back, is also drawing close to a personal milestone. He rushed for 185 yards to move 32 yards closer to 2,000 on the season and scored three touchdowns, two on the ground and the other on a 57-yard screen pass.

“Their running back is special,” Myrtle Beach head coach Mickey Wilson said. “He’s a great player. He’s tough to tackle. They had some big plays on offense and that was the difference in the game.”

Wide receiver Telvin Smith also provided a boost on special teams. He turned a potential muffed kickoff into a 93-yard touchdown, had a 40-yard punt return for a score and caught a 13-yard touchdown pass.

While the defense gave up a season-high in points, it did record eight sacks. Defensive linemen Xavier Montgomery, Jaiden Bryant and Ethan Gamble each recorded two sacks and linebacker Demarkio Campbell had a team-high eight tackles.

For the season, the Yellow Jackets are averaging 53.5 points on offense and holding opponents to 6.41 points a game. In James Island, they face a team with similar offensive (averaging 42.4 points per game) and defensive (allowing 6.5 points per game) numbers.

Quarterback Braxton Scott has thrown for 1,592 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushed for 426 yards and seven touchdowns. Running backs Amontre and Amor Scott have both rushed for over 700 yards and have 11 and 14 touchdowns, respectively.

On defense, lineman Malachi Jefferson has 50 tackles and six sacks and linebacker Chris Glover leads the team with 86 tackles and three sacks. James Island is holding opponents to 6.5 points a game.

Dangerfield is back for the Trojans at placekicker. He’s recorded 63 touchbacks and is 4-9 on field goals.

The winner faces defending champion South Florence (12-0) or Lancaster (3-9) in the Lower State final.

“It’s the most important game of the year simply because it’s the next,” head coach Aaron Brand said. “You get to a point at this time of the season where it’s ‘win or go home’. We know the rules going on the road. We put ourselves down 14 early. Right now, we’re down 14 and hopefully, we can cut it to at least 10 in the morning.”

Photo by Thomas Grant, Jr. Wide receiver Telvin Smith with the 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Myrtle Beach.