Orangeburg Prep’s game with the Highlanders of Heathwood Hall Friday night wasn’t over until it was over.
The homestanding Indians maintained their perfect season with a 22-14 decision in a battle that remained close for nearly three quarters of play.
A quarterback sack by OP defensive back Cameron Thompson with just over two minutes of play remaining sealed the win for Indians, now 6-0 on the season. The loss drops Heathwood Hall to 1-4.
The two squads exchanged punts for the entire first quarter before Heathwood Hall mounted an 84-yard touchdown drive 15 seconds into the second period. Quarterback Logan McGill capped the drive with a 24-yard toss to receiver Nelson Weston. The extra point kick put the Highlanders up 7-0.
However, the Indians moved the ball 63 yards on their next possession to close the gap to 7-6 with Marion McCurry’s 17-yard touchdown strike over the middle to Derek Andrews. Michael Pascoe, OP’s leading rusher, bulled over the line for a two-point conversion to make it 8-7 in favor of the Indians.
Both defenses made the opposing offenses sputter for each of the teams’ next possessions.
With 5:22 remaining in the half, Heathwood Hall was forced to punt after recovering their own fumble deep in their territory. OP’s next drive resulted in a punt when McCurry was sacked for a 12-yard loss on third down. Heathwood Hall’s last possession of the half ended when OP defensive back Charlie Sutcliffe batted down a McGill pass.
OP appeared to gain momentum in the third period when Pascoe ripped off a 27-yard gain with 1:57 remaining in the quarter. But the Indians then were called on a holding penalty that ended the drive — and the quarter — with the score still 8-7.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, OP put themselves in scoring position on a 44-yard completion that set them up at the Highlander 15. Keeping the ball off the ground, the Indians pounded at the door until tailback Reeves Connelly scored the Indian’s second touchdown of the night. The two-point conversion attempt was successful after McCurry swept right on an option pass but kept the ball for the score.
But Heathwood Hall wasn’t finished. They struck quickly, moving the ball 60 yards in 56 seconds, ending with a 27-yard scamper by McGill. Davis Bland’s extra point made the score 16-14.
An onside kick attempt by the Highlanders was covered by the Indians at the 50-yard line. When the OP drive went nowhere, punter JJ Union’s kick pinned the visiting team at their own 1-yard line with just under 6 minutes remaining in the game.
Under pressure and scrambling in his own end zone, McGill was picked off at the 22-yard line by Hart Hartley, who returned the ball to the Highlander 8.
However, a personal foul against the Indians resulted in an OP player being ejected and ending McGill’s night.
Starting business at the 25-yard line after the foul, OP ground it out until Pascoe reached the end zone with four minutes remaining. The point after kick was blocked.
Thompson’s sack of leftie quarterback Will Detwiler on the Highlanders’ next possession ended any threat to OP’s perfect season. The Indians ran out the remaining 2:13 left on the clock.
The Indians gained 320 yards on the night, almost half of that by Pascoe, who amassed 153 yards on 25 carries. McCurry went 8-15 for 122 yards and one TD. Derrick Andrews went for 78 yards off four catches.
Heathwood Hall totaled 231 yards, led by McGill’s 156 yards through the air with one touchdown toss and one interception. McGill also gained 61 yards on the ground. Nelson Weston caught four passes for 71 yards.
The win sets up a showdown next Friday at Indian Field after Wilson Hall’s 49-0 smackdown of Porter-Gaud. According to this year’s statistics, the two teams are evenly matched in passing yards per game with the Indians averaging 197 to Wilson Hall’s 190.
However, Wilson Hall has averaged almost 80 yards more in their rushing attack with 237 yards per game. OP averages 160.
The winner of that matchup in Orangeburg next week will sit alone atop the SCISA AAA regional standings.