Augusta Christian wide receiver Josh Whitaker wore a big smile as he celebrated with friends and family Friday.
The senior and his Lions teammates had ended Porter-Gaud's season for the second consecutive year - this time with a 41-7 win in the SCISA Class AAA state quarterfinals in the final home game of the season.
While Whitaker caught only one ball in the win, the reception was good for a 36-yard touchdown. It was the longest play of the night for an Augusta Christian team that benefited from five Porter-Gaud turnovers.
"Getting those fumbles down in the red zone makes it easier to put it in," Whitaker said.
The Lions pounced on three Porter-Gaud fumbles, two in the first quarter, that set up Augusta Christian's offense for a full night of scoring. The Lions beat the Cyclones with six touchdowns, four on the ground and two through the air, while the home team's defense limited Porter-Gaud to a lone touchdown in the fourth quarter.
"Those turnovers were momentum-changers," Augusta Christian senior Josh McDaniel said. "When you look at it, usually the team with the most turnovers loses the game."
The win advanced Augusta Christian to the state semifinals where the No. 2 seeded Lions will face top-seeded Laurence Manning on the road. Unlike Augusta Christian's first-round match-up, coach Bruce Lane said his team may not be favored to win in the semifinals.
"They're stronger than last year, and I think in the preseason everyone kind of penciled in them and Hammond into the finals," Lane said.
Hammond, undefeated in the regular season, has remained atop the SCISA rankings for most of the year and will face Wilson Hall on Friday in the other semifinal game. Laurence Manning, the Region II-AAA champion, is the higher seed and will play host to Augusta Christian this Friday.
The Lions knocked off Laurence Manning in the first round of the state playoffs last season with a 35-6 win at home. However, Lane said this was a new year with a different team.
"This year I think there was a little different anticipation. I think last year there was so much focus on getting to the playoffs and seeding," Lane said. "This year the guys' attitudes are different. We keep stressing the idea that tradition never graduates, and our tradition is that we have a good football program."
The SCISA Class AAA state semifinals between Augusta Christian and Laurence Manning will take place Friday in Manning.
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