Officially, the inaugural Jasper County showdown between Ridgeland-Hardeeville and Thomas Heyward Academy fell victim to storm concerns with 5:16 remaining in the third quarter.
In reality, the lightning hit a little earlier than that.
Freddie Aiken, Kamrin Williams and Cedric Hunt all found the end zone on runs of 40 yards or more Friday night, helping Ridgeland-Hardeeville overcome a sluggish start to gallop away with a 35-6 romp in the weather-shortened season opener.
Aiken scored both of his touchdowns in the first half, helping the Jaguars overcome an early 6-0 deficit. The real damage came after intermission, though, as Devontay Dopson, Williams and Hunt propelled RHHS (1-0) to scores on all three possessions before the game was halted.
Dopson scored on an 18-yard jaunt, extending the Jaguars’ lead to 22-6, to be followed by Williams’ 46-yard TD run and Hunt’s 66-yard rumble.
Mother Nature stepped in at that point, as lightning began to flash in the distance. Before the Jaguars could kick off, a school official jogged out with a handheld weather meter and officials ordered the two teams off the field.
“I was hoping to come out well in the second half,” Jaguars coach Jahmaal Nelson said. “I think it was more of a situation where we were able to show a little more conditioning on our part. We were able to make some plays with better blocking.”
The Jaguars amassed 301 yards rushing on the evening, as Williams, Hunt and Aiken all churned out at least 70 yards.
“I thought we were in position to make a lot of plays,” Rebels coach Nic Shuford said, “and we just didn’t make them. A lot of that has to do with Ridgeland (Hardeeville). Coach Nelson did a great job getting those guys ready.”
Logan Thomas threw for 60 yards to lead the Rebels, completing 7 of 15 passes on the night. Bret Mixson pulled in three of the seven completions for 40 yards.
But Thomas also was in the middle of Thomas Heyward’s two turnovers. A mishandled snap led to a fumble that set up the Jaguars for their first touchdown, and Thomas’ third-quarter interception was cashed in by Hunt’s 66-yard TD.
“They’re going to do well in SCISA,” Nelson said. “(Thomas) is a great kid and works hard at the game. I know he’s going to lead them to a great season.”
The meeting opened a new chapter in Jasper County history, marking the first encounter in any sport between Thomas Heyward, which opened in 1970, and any of its public brethren in the county.
Nelson and Shuford tossed the idea around for nearly a year before getting administrators at their respective schools to sign off on the deal. Friday’s game was the front end of a two-year deal, with the Jaguars hitting the road next year for the less-than 2 miles jaunt to THA’s campus.
“It looked like a pretty good crowd,” Shuford said. “A clean game on the field, didn’t have any problems on the field. Everybody got along well.”
Said Nelson: “And we hope next year it’ll be even bigger.”
Spencer Hexamer gave the Rebels a 6-0 lead with a 1-yard scoring plunge on their first possession, before the Jaguars countered with 35 unanswered points.
Thomas’ fumble turned momentum late in the first half, as Cornelius Wright’s recovery gave the Jaguars possession at the Rebels 16. Aiken scored on a 1-yard run four plays later, and Jabari Williams’ 2-point conversion put RHHS ahead 8-6.
Aiken scored again on the Jaguars’ next possession, breaking through the middle on a 40-yard scoring run for a 14-6 advantage early in the second quarter.
The Jaguars could have created a bigger cushion, but saw two touchdowns and another big gainer called back by holding penalties.