Sparked by special teams and inspired second-half defense, the Ashley Ridge Swamp Foxes rallied with 18 unanswered points and knocked off visiting Beaufort High School, 25-21, to remain in the mix for the Region 8-AAAA title.
Ashley Ridge improved to 4-5 overall and 2-1 in region eight play with two games remaining. Beaufort dropped to 6-3 overall and 1-2 in Region 8.
Senior Donavan Thompson returned a punt 77 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 9:01 to play in the fourth quarter, and the Swamp Foxes defense -- which was gashed for more than 150 yards rushing in the first half -- made it stand up.
"We have been a team that has not handled adversity very well all season but we were able to do it tonight and I'm real proud of our football team," said Ashley Ridge head coach Kenny Walker. "Hopefully we can continue this momentum into the final two games. Beaufort is a good football team. This is a big, big win for our team."
Ashley Ridge led early on Sean White's 24-yard run but the Eagles scored the next three touchdowns, all on runs by star tailback Eric Blakely, to grab a 21-7 advantage. Blakely's 58-yard run on the third play from scrimmage in the third quarter pushed the advantage to two touchdowns.
However, Ashley Ridge answered less than a minute later when quarterback Chandler Avenel, who threw for 150 yards in the game, connected with Matt Linton on a 38-yard touchdown pass. A two-point conversion made it 21-15. The score was set up by Dashaun Santiago's 67-yard kickoff return.
"We take a lot of pride in our special teams," said Walker. "We have returned a couple of kicks for scores and a punt before tonight. Those plays are huge, especially when you are trying to come back."
Thompson's punt return gave Ashley Ridge the lead and Matt Gable provided insurance with a 32-yard field goal with 4:56 remaining in the game.
"He's a football player and I really enjoy watching him when he gets the ball with some room," Walker said of Thompson.
Beaufort's last drive ate up most of the final 4:51. The Eagles went from their own 38 to the Ashley Ridge 10-yard line, converting a key fourth-and-18 from the 35. However, a fourth down pass attempt from the 10 fell incomplete with 24 seconds left.
Blakely would finish the game with 162 yards rushing but Ashley Ridge allowed him only 29 yards after the long run early in the third quarter.
"I thought we matched them physically and played very tough and physical tonight," said Walker.
Ashley Ridge 25, Beaufort High 21
Beaufort High 0 14 7 0 -- 21
Ashley Ridge 7 0 8 10 -- 25
AR - Sean White 24 run (Matt Gable kick)
B - Eric Blakely 16 run (kick failed)
B - Blakely 15 run (Vaigneur pass to Tookes)
B - Blakely 58 run (Brady Cormier kick)
AR - Matt Linton 38 pass from Chandler Avenel (Avenel pass to Donavan Thompson)
AR - Thompson 77 punt return (Gable kick)
AR - Gable 32 field goal