With the 2020 season on the line, Orangeburg Prep scored a late touchdown on Friday to advance out of the first round of SCISA Class 2A state playoffs.
The Indians (8-2 record) are now one win away from playing in the state championship, after defeating the Florence Christian Eagles (3-7 final record) 24-22 at Indian Field.
FCS won a week ago at home against OPS, 28-14.
The Indians advance to play at Carolina Academy in Lake City next Friday in second-round action. CA eliminated Hilton Head Prep from playoff contention.
Andy Palmer, OPS head football coach, recapped the final 14-play drive that gave the Indians the late-game lead on Friday.
The Indians’ final drive was led by junior quarterback McCullough Mims, who used his right arm and his legs to keep the drive alive, before ultimately finding the end zone.
“We were throwing the football and some four-wide stuff, and doing some different things. Then, we were able to run the football some, so we were able to mix it up," Palmer said. "McCullough was able to do a few things, and then we were able to find the end zone.
"Our offensive staff, those guys did a great job. It was one of those things where we had an opportunity to spread the field a little bit and do some things, then run it when we had to.”
The drive started on the 40-yard line, leaving the Indians 4:44 of game clock to march 60 yards for a score. Facing third-and-10, Mims dropped back to pass, but scrambled up the sideline for 10 yards and a new set of downs.
Mims then threw two incomplete passes, following a four-yard rush by Dylan Wilson. Facing fourth down, Mims found A.J. Tolbert eight yards downfield for another first down.
The OPS quarterback then used his legs to keep the drive alive, this time scrambling 11 yards on third down. Mims followed his rush with a 6-yard completion to Tolbert, an incomplete pass, and then a pass to Mikey Templeton for first-and-goal.
On third-and-goal, Mims punched the ball in from five yards out, giving the Indians the lead.
With 1:15 remaining in the game, the Eagles took the field on offense. The Indian defense forced a fumble, which was recovered by Cade Wiles. The OPS offense ran out the clock, securing the home playoff win.
Florence Christian scored the first points of the game with a 64-yard rush by Ethan Kelly, followed by D.J. Huntley’s run for the 2-point conversion, making the score 8-0.
The Indians answered with a 73-yard pass play from Mims to Tolbert for a touchdown. The 2-point conversion was no good, making the score 8-6 at the half.
Mims found Tolbert again in the third quarter, this time for 18 yards and a touchdown. The 2-point conversion was no good, making the score 12-8.
Florence Christian regained the lead with a 4-yard rush by Kelly. The 2-point conversion was no good, making the score 14-12.
The Eagles extended the lead to 22-12 after Robbie Jordan rushed one yard for a score on fourth-and-goal. Jordan found Kelly in the end zone for the 2-point conversion, giving the Eagles a 10-point lead with 8:48 remaining in the game.
OPS cut into the Eagles’ lead on a 1-yard rushing touchdown by Tolbert with 8:08 left to play. The PAT was no good, making the score 22-18.
The Indian defense forced a punt, setting up the offense for the final score to secure the victory.
Palmer said Friday’s win was a quality win over a familiar opponent.
“It means the world to us," Palmer said. "They kind of gave it to us last week in Week 10, and they were extremely improved.
"And so, we’re excited about doing that. Win and advance, move on. We take our hats off to them, an extremely well-played game, and we’re excited about where we’re at."
Mims led the Indian offense, going 8-for-19 for 189 passing yards and two scores. Mims also carried the ball 9 times for 21 yards and a score.
Tolbert was the leading receiver for OPS, catching 7 passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns. Wilson led the Indians with 11 carries for 62 yards.
Tolbert led the way on defense, with 13 tackles, while Inabinet added 10.5, Wiles and Jay Plummer both added 9.5, Nick Shafer added 8.5, including 2 tackles for a loss, and Andrew Hunter added 7.