The Evans High School Junior Varsity Knights asserted their dominance over the Lakeside JV Panthers from their first play from scrimmage in a 26-6 win Thursday night to finish the season a perfect 8-0 and claim The Columbia County News-Times County Cup.
The Knights, who went to 4-0 against in-county rivals Harlem, Greenbrier and Lakeside, earned its second win of the season over the Panthers, last year's County Cup winner, before a home crowd at John Pierce Blanchard Stadium.
The County Cup, provided by recognition company Cudo's, is awarded each year to the top junior varsity football team in Columbia County. Each season, the two JV teams with the best records vie for the cup in the championship game.
Evans scored on its first play when freshman Tyler Barden took a toss sweep around the right tackle and sprinted 54 yards to the end zone just 21 seconds into the first quarter. Barden racked up 96 yards on seven carries to lead a Knights squad who piled on a team total 219 yards on 25 carries.
It was the first of many big plays for the Knights, who despite being penalized seven times for 60 yards maintained their momentum with three long touchdown runs and four forced turnovers in the game.
"We normally are a ground control (team), hit the short pass, every now and then hit the long pass down field," JV head coach Russell Lee said. "But hey, the kids did a good job tonight. Lakeside played a good game and it was just a hard-fought battle all night long."
Early in the second quarter, two plays after a Lakeside fumble, Evans sophomore running back Tab Davis took another toss sweep right, cut back over the middle through a huge hole en route to a 45-yard touchdown to stake the Knights to a 14-0 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, Lakeside got back into the game with a defense that held the Knights without a first down and an offense that generated a 10-play, 64-yard drive, capped by a 2-yard touchdown run by freshman Chris Hartsfield. The two-point conversion failed, but the Panthers closed to 14-6.
That was as close as the Panthers would get as Evans regained its flow on offense in the fourth quarter. Following a would-be 64-yard touchdown pass by the Knights that was negated by a penalty, Evans converted two third-down and long situations to set up a 21-yard touchdown run by sophomore Ian Coffey. The point-after failed, but Evans went on top 20-6.
On the Panthers' next possession, with less than three minutes remaining, Knights' sophomore defensive back Jeffrey Rice picked off freshman quarterback Khadi Tshishku's pass at the Evans 45 yard line and broke several tackles, taking the ball all the way to the Lakeside 1. Evans sophomore quarterback Bryan Freeman broke the plane from a yard out and Evans led 26-6 after a missed extra point.
After the game, Lee and his staff told the team they expected the success of this season to carry over to the varsity level for the sophomores and to the next JV season for the freshmen.
"The minute this season is over with, we get in that weight room, we work hard on those books and we get ready for next year," Lee said.
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