Columbia County still belongs to the Evans Knights.
Troy Griffith tossed a 7--yard touchdown pass to Brandon McCladdie for the decisive score in Evans' 19-15 win over visiting Lakeside on Friday night. The pass came on third-and-goal with 39.5 seconds remaining and one play after Griffith had rolled right and misfired to an open receiver.
Evans is 5-0 against Columbia County teams dating back to a 2006 loss to Greenbrier. The Knights are off this week, but a win over Harlem on Sept. 19 would give Evans their second consecutive sweep of Columbia County.
Evans (2-0), which failed to score or move the ball in the first half Friday, trailed by nine points early but came alive by scoring touchdowns on its first two plays of the second half, when Jonathan Finch raced 65 and 37 yards. Its defensive harassed the Panthers in the second half, allowing just one TD on a scrambling third-down TD pass by Lakeside quarterback Chad Chandler.
"We couldn't do anything right (in the first half), because they had a great defensive game plan," Evans coach Marty Jackson said. "We always believe we can win."
Lakeside, which was shut out in three of its final six games last year, led 9-0 and 15-12 but couldn't make the lead stand even though it held it right down to the final seconds.
The Panthers were without coach Jody Grooms, who was serving a two-game suspension for calling an illegal play in last season's final game. Lakeside will be without Grooms for one more game this Friday when it plays host to Greenbrier (1-10) at 7:30 p.m.
"We were trying to win this one for coach Grooms," Chandler said. "It just wouldn't go our way."
Evans, trailing by three points, took over at its own 31-yard line with 3:57 to play. A roughing the passer call -- the biggest penalty on a night when the teams combined to commit 22 of them -- allowed the Knights to convert a key third down, and Griffith then seemed to gain confidence for the first time. He completed three consecutive passes before Finch ran 20 yards on an option down to the 7-yard line. A Finch run for no gain and one incompletion later, Evans called time out to decide how it would win the game.
"I didn't lose my confidence at all after that bad throw ... it was just a matter of putting the ball in the right spot," said Griffith, who finished 13-of-20 for 119 yards and his first career TD pass.
Lakeside scored on 46-yard and 34-yard passes from Chandler to Levi Hanks. Hanks caught the second midway through the third period by out-leaping a defender in the end zone on third-and-9. Take away those two plays, and Lakeside netted 41 yards of offense.
Chandler was 8-of-13 for 73 yards in the first half but found it difficult to scramble or find the time to locate receivers in the second half. Evans' ends Reuben Faloughi and Nigel Charles applied consistent pressure.
"They had a pretty good pass rush, but I'm disappointed in myself," Chandler said. "I was stepping up in the pocket too soon."
Lakeside sacked Griffith four times in the first half, and the Knights had netted five yards of offense until the final two plays of the half. Finch had seven carries in the first half, and four of them went for zero or negative yards. His next two: a 65-yard TD run off a pitch to the left and a 33-yard TD run on an option that had him reverse fields and out-race every Panther to the end zone.
It was the fifth consecutive win in the series for Evans and its seventh consecutive over area opponents dating back to a September 2006 loss to Greenbrier.
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