EDITOR'S NOTE: With the high school sports season delayed and facing possible cancellation, it is looking more and more like that there may be a fall without Bulldog football. That just can't happen.
So, the Herald-Advocate is going to create a season of "the Bulldogs' greatest hits." Each week, we will remember a classic game from MCHS history against the opponent the 2020 Bulldogs would have faced. If this year's team does get to take the field, we'll take up covering the current team.
The Bulldogs were originally scheduled to open the year at Hartsville tomorrow night. This article is from the October 27, 2011 edition of the Herald-Advocate.
By RYAN BETHEA
HARTSVILLE - With one kick, Marlboro County’s season went from average to amazing.
Hartsville missed a game-winning field goal attempt with 16 seconds left Friday, assuring the Bulldogs of their most wild and improbable region championship in school history.
Marlboro County edged Hartsville 21-19 in a thriller at Kelleytown Stadium to capture its fifth region title in seven years. After a rocky September - losing three straight games to a combined score of 146-30 - a region championship seemed dubious a month ago.
That’s what makes this complete turnaround, including a current four-game region winning streak, that much more gratifying, said MCHS head coach Dean Boyd.
“Four weeks ago, you would have never thought this is where we would be,” said Boyd, who has now won 10 region championships at Marlboro County. “This feels so good because our kids deserve this. I told them to never stop believing.”
The Bulldogs leaned on their strong belief until the very end after watching a dominating first half performance shrivel into a two point lead with under a minute to play.
Hartsville (7-2, 3-1) rallied from a 15-point deficit on a 3-yard touchdown run with 7:31 left in the game. A game-tying two-point conversion was denied when Fred Williams stuffed Hartsville quarterback Shaquille Johnson in the backfield.
Marlboro County chewed three more minutes off the clock before punting over to Hartsville. The Foxes were in position to snag the win after driving as close as the 11 yard line with :28 showing but Sam Williamson’s 29-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left as the Bulldogs’ sidelines erupted in celebration.
“Our defense came up with a stop when it had to,” said Boyd. “We got enough out of the last two drives to take up time and move the ball to put them in tough field position.”
With a 21-13 lead in the third quarter, Marlboro County manufactured one of its best drives all season off Hartsville’s season-high fifth turnover of the game. The 18-play drive, led by quarterback Delvin McRae, kept the Red Foxes’ offense on the sidelines for 6:30 in the second half. Six different offensive players pushed the ball inside the 20 before the drive was thwarted on Ryan Janssen’s missed 25-yard field goal try with 9:43 remaining in the fourth quarter.
It was the culmination of an overall sloppy night for Hartsville, who hadn’t lost a region game in two years. But no one could have expected Marlboro County’s explosion in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs scored three touchdowns in the opening eight minutes to set the bar high in the region title battle. It was just the second time all season Marlboro County scored 21 points or more in a quarter.
On a gutsy fourth and 2, McRae heaved a 31-yard touchdown pass to Rasheen Bostic for the first score. Bostic finished with 91 yards on six catches.
McRae threw for 220 yards including two deep touchdown passes in his first complete game of the season. Boyd said the game didn’t dictate using the three-quarterback system he had come to perfect in the previous eight games.
“What made us successful with using three quarterbacks, was whenever it felt right, we did it,” Boyd explained. “It didn’t feel right tonight.”
Hartsville fumbled its opening drive on the Bulldogs’ 8-yard line. Marlboro County, however, fumbled it back two plays later, setting up the Foxes’ easiest score of the night. Hartsville’s PAT was unsuccessful.
The Bulldogs bounced back with a four-play touchdown drive, capped by Malik Ford’s 26-yard catch. Ford, who didn’t practice any last week with a leg injury, shook off a defender as he sprinted into the end zone. Janssen’s extra point put the Bulldogs ahead 14-6 at 3:06.
“He is a gamer,” Boyd said of his outstanding senior receiver, who finished with nine catches for 90 yards. “We had to take his pads from him all week where he wouldn’t practice.”
After a Hartsville three and out, Marlboro County needed just three plays to extend its lead. Bostic grabbed a circus-like 38-yard catch to set up Jaquan Cole’s eight-yard touchdown run to end the stunning first quarter.
“Our offense came out and was clicking really good then it derailed,” said Boyd.
The Foxes had turnovers on four of their first five possessions. Hartsville cut its deficit to a 21-13 halftime margin on a seven play 97-yard drive in the second quarter.
“They turned it over a lot but the last two weeks, they have won games because the other team turned the ball over,” Boyd said. “They have been fortunate and tonight it came back on our side. Our kids were not going to be denied.”
MCHS is now ranked #9 in this week’s S.C. Prep Media Class AAA poll. The Bulldogs will be guaranteed of at least two home playoff games, assuming they win the opener next Friday.
Marlboro County (6-3, 4-0) will return home this Friday night for its regular season finale at McAlpine Stadium. The Bulldogs will host last place Camden at 7:30 p.m. in a meaningless game other than overall records.
Friday will be the last meeting between the two schools since Camden will join a Columbia-based region as of next year.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The 2011 Bulldogs, Class AAA Region 6 champs, would win their fifth straight game the following week, defeating Camden 27-14. They held off a determined Brookland-Cayce team in the first round of the playoffs, 21-16, but fell to Cane Bay, 28-14 to end the season in the second round of the Class AAA playoffs. They finished 8-4 overall. Next week, the Bulldogs will face off with Cheraw.