NORTH AUGUSTA 20 SILVER BLUFF 0

By NOAH FEIT


nfeit@aikenstandard.com


GRANITEVILLE — After a lackluster showing in its final scrimmage, the North Augusta High School football team needed to show head coach Brian Thomas something in its quarter of the Aiken County Jamboree – the Yellow Jackets' final tuneup before the start of the regular season. The first-year coach got the improved effort he was looking for, as his enthusiastic team rode the momentum of a good start to a 20-0 victory over Silver Bluff on Friday.


“I liked the excitement. We came out with energy and beat a good Silver Bluff team,” Thomas said of a well-rounded effort from the Yellow Jackets in 18 minutes of action at Midland Valley High School's L.L. Willis Stadium. “We played assignment football.”


It didn't take North Augusta long to play to its strengths, the passing of Trib Reece. The senior quarterback threw the ball on three of the first four plays of the quarter – converting a pair of first downs and narrowly avoiding an interception when his intended receiver let the on-target pass ricochet off of his pads.


Reece shook off the near turnover, and on third-and-13 looked deep instead of just trying for another conversion to move the chains. The bold move paid off, as Reece hit Chaz Mealer in stride as he was streaking down the left sideline for a 52-yard touchdown.


“He's real smooth, a mature quarterback,” Silver Bluff head coach Al Lown said of Reece, who finished the jamboree by completing 5 of 8 passes for 127 yards and three touchdowns. “You can tell he feels comfortable.”


Any quarterback would've been in their comfort zone if they were in the situation Reece found himself in on North Augusta's second possession. Following an eight-play drive by the Bulldogs, the Yellow Jacket defense overcame a pair of costly penalties and stiffened at midfield. It forced Silver Bluff into a punting situation, and when the long snap sailed over the head of punter DeAngilo Drayton, a scramble was on for the loose ball. Drayton ultimately fell on it, but it was at his own 5-yard line – a loss of 42 yards on the play and a turnover on downs.


Reece quickly capitalized on the tremendous field position. On the next play, he threw a pass to the flat, where running back Cam Matthews caught it and walked into the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown. North Augusta had a 13-point lead in less than five minutes of action, showing that even though the team has a new head coach, there's a great deal of continuity in the quick-strike offense with offensive coordinator Craig Gilstrap still calling the plays for Reece.


Silver Bluff followed with another long possession that didn't go too far. In nine plays, the Bulldogs gained 22 yards – all on the ground – before being forced to punt again. This time, the snap was on target and Drayton was able to get the kick off cleanly, but that was the best drive of the jamboree for the Bulldogs.


“Offensively, we didn't come off the ball on the offensive line,” said Lown, who praised the efforts of two of his ball carriers – Myles Corbitt and Anthony Reed – but wasn't satisfied with the overall performance. “North Augusta has a good defense, but we didn't attack. … We've got to do a better job blocking. We still look too slow.”


That's exactly what Reece did in his final series of the night. After the Yellow Jackets shutdown Silver Bluff on fourth-and-inches, Reece got the ball on the Bulldogs' side of midfield. He threw a long jump ball that Mealer came down with for a 46-yard touchdown. That was the final score of the quarter, as North Augusta's defense preserved the shutout with another stop.


While Lown was disappointed in his team's failures, he saw positives and room for improvement for a relatively inexperienced squad.


“A positive was we played the run decent,” Lown said of limiting North Augusta to 21 yards on nine carries. “Our defensive line and linebackers held them down, but our defensive backs weren't good. … North Augusta's a good team, and you can't give them anything. We gave them two bombs and a bad snap. That's on us. But that's good, because we can fix that.”


Silver Bluff will look to make strides by next Friday, when it opens the regular season by playing host to Abbeville. North Augusta will also be in action in Week Zero, welcoming Lakeside (Ga.) to the Jackets Nest. Thomas said its hard to believe the regular season is about to start.


“I can barely realize how fast it comes,” Thomas said. “We've go to continue to grow.”


Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than 15 years after graduating from Syracuse University.


NORTH AUGUSTA 20, SILVER BLUFF 0


SCORING SUMMARY


NA–Trib Reece 52 pass Chaz Mealer (kick no good) 16:19.


NA–Reece 5 pass Cam Matthews (kick good) 13:26.


NA–Reece 46 pass Mealer (kick good) 5:38.


STATISTICS


RUSHING


NA–Brandon Houston 4-14, Cam Matthews 4-(-1), Josh Iaukea 1-8. TOTALS: 9-21


SB–Myles Corbitt 7-24, DeAngilo Drayton 6-(-41), Anthony Reed 5-8, Darnell Davis 1-1, Malik Washington 1-1, Brandon Hill 1-(-1). TOTALS: 21-(-8).


PASSING


NA–Trib Reece 5-8-127 3TDs.


SB–Hill 0-2-0.


RECEIVING


NA–Chaz Mealer 3-106 2TDs, Matthews 1-5 1TD, Blake Busby 1-20.