NINETY SIX — Grasping onto a four-point lead in the waning minutes Friday night, the Newberry High School defense needed a great goal-line stand against the Ninety Six Wildcats on a first-and-goal from the one.
After two plays had negative yardage, the Wildcats picked up zero yards before looking at a fourth-and-goal from the five.
Ninety Six didn’t have any time outs to set up their final play and a pass attempt was incomplete. Newberry ran out the clock after picking up two first downs and the fifth-ranked Bulldogs held on for the 14-10 victory.
The nice contingent of fans on both sides of the field had not even gotten fully settled into their seats when a botched Newberry hand-off resulted in a fumble recovery by the Wildcats.
Ninety Six was forced to punt after a sack and Newberry would set up a touchdown drive just over two minutes into the game.
The only time the Bulldogs saw a third-down marker was on a third and two at the Ninety Six 15, but Amir Abrams would set up a first and goal for Newberry with a run down to the two.
Abrams scored his 39th career touchdown on the next play and Ethan Day’s PAT kick was good for the 7-0 score with 6:43 left in the first.
Both teams traded punts several times before Newberry got the ball at their 31 with 8:47 left until halftime.
After a pick-up of two yards, Tyran Graham’s pass was picked off and returned 34 yards for the touchdown. The score was tied at 7-7 with 7:57 to the break.
With Ninety Six to get the ball to start the second half, Newberry was in need of a score for any kind of momentum swing to head into the locker rooms.
Looking at a third and 19 from their 17, Graham connected with Jaleel Gilliam with a 34-yard pass. A 29-yard pass to Zymere Epps two plays later put Newberry at the Ninety Six 23.
Marcus Moore scored from there with 2:29 to the break. Day’s PAT kick gave Newberry the 14-7 lead with 2:27 left until the half.
Ninety Six tried to answer Newberry’s touchdown right back but Bradley Love would make an interception at the two. Newberry ran out the clock after his 40-yard return.
Neither team was able to mount a scoring drive to start the second half as a fourth-down incomplete pass gave Ninety Six the ball at their 25 with 4:49 left in the third.
This 12-play drive saw two incomplete passes, two completions and eight runs before a three-yard sack forced the Wildcats to attempt a 29-yard field goal with 17.2 seconds left on the third quarter clock.
The kick was perfect for the 14-10 score.
Newberry failed to convert a fourth and eight from the Ninety Six 16, while Ninety Six’s following possession stalled at their 44.
After a time-out and in desperation to “flip the field” in their favor, the Wildcats did just that with a 52-yard punt, pinning Newberry at the five-yard line.
Newberry ended up losing two yards on this drive and their punt placed Ninety Six 23 yards from the end zone.
Five consecutive rushing plays placed the Wildcats at the one-yard line.
Ninety Six had 15 first downs and a total offense of 182 yards. Newberry had 11 first downs and 270 yards of offense.
Moore had 20 carries for 72 yards, while Abrams carried the ball six times for 86 yards.
Graham ended up losing nine yards on his six carries, while Tony Mason and Ivan Ruff had a lone carry for seven yards and zero yards, respectively.
Gilliam caught three passes for 59 yards, Derrick Scurry caught one pass for 12 yards, RJ Wadsworth caught two passes for 18 yards, while Zymere Epps caught one pass for 25 yards.
Newberry plays host to Batesburg-Leesville on Friday but since their home stadium is not finished yet, the game will be moved to Mid-Carolina High School.