High School Sports

Knighton carries Hardeeville past Estill, 28-24

Donald Scott saw something no else saw. Not even his coaches.

And he called a last-second audible to flip the outcome of a game.

Hardeeville High School's quarterback changed a third-down play call from a run to a pass at the line of scrimmage, telling only running back Jarrell Knighton he wouldn't be making the handoff.

It worked to perfection. Scott found Brandon Blackshear for a 6-yard touchdown with two minutes left to play, giving the Hurricanes a 28-24 win against Estill on Friday night. The win moves Hardeeville to 2-0 in Region 5-A.

"I said, 'What the heck is he doing?' " Hurricanes coach Blake Raley said. "I had no idea it was coming."

The Fighting Gators were just as surprised, and understandably so. The Hurricanes rode Knighton to 198 yards and two touchdowns on a season-high 38 carries while attempting only four passes.

Hardeeville's first two pass attempts were intercepted, but its last won the game.

"They weren't playing that backside, so I just pulled it out and put it up for the touchdown," Scott said. "I was going to take it all the way in myself, but I just put it up and let my wide receiver get it."

Scott provided the late magic, but Knighton was the workhorse for all four quarters.

Despite Estill stacking the box, Knighton still managed to find creases behind an improving offensive line led by Jamal Kinlaw.

After rushing for 90 yards in the opening half, he carried for 108 in the second, including 74 in the final quarter to bring the Hurricanes back from a 24-14 deficit. Michael Kinlaw added 74 yards on 13 carries.

"I was real tired. Real tired," Knighton said. "When I was running the football, I was actually catching cramps in my legs, so I had to run through it. When I felt them coming, I just picked up my feet and kept them moving."

Estill (2-3, 1-1) grabbed a 24-14 lead on a pair of second-half touchdowns from Jervony Hutchinson, who felt his share of leg cramps in the fourth quarter as well.

The Fighting Gators also opened the game with a 9-0 lead, taking advantage of three early Hurricanes turnovers. Each team turned the ball over five times in the game, the last of which -- an interception by Cylik Morrison-Ford -- ended the game.

Hurricanes safety Amar Wilkins turned his into points, intercepting Marcus Bryant's pass and returning it 31 yards for a touchdown to close out the first half and put Hardeeville in the lead heading to the locker room.

"Our game plan went out the window in a hurry," Raley said of the turnovers. "But we kept fighting and the kids didn't give up. We showed a lot of resolve. Down 9-0 early, in the first couple of weeks, we probably would've cashed in the chips right there."

The Hurricanes could have showed the same attitude toward their season. But after an 0-3 start to the year, they have opened region play with a pair of victories and will try to improve to 3-0 in Region 5-A when they travel to Bethune-Bowman on Friday.

"We saw a couple of heads down earlier," Scott said. "But once we get on our little winning streak, everybody is back up. They can't knock us off our high horse right now."