Darryl Ware (42), Jahlyn Shuler (44) and Tonka Hemingway (90) were part of a Sandlappers defense that limited the Tarheels to 173 yards in
South Carolina’s 28-17 Shrine Bowl victory, Saturday. (TIFFANYERVIN.COM)

South Carolina rode its defense, running game and timely big plays to a 28-17 victory in the 83rd Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas in Spartanburg, Saturday. Mr. Football finalists Jalin Hyatt (wide receiver, Dutch Fork) and Rahjai Harris (running back, Byrnes) sparked the Sandlappers to victory. It’s South Carolina’s first win over North Carolina since 2014.

Hyatt, a Tennessee signee, caught six passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns on his way to the offensive MVP award. After Hyatt’s second touchdown gave the Sandlappers the lead, Harris and the running game took control. Harris, an East Carolina signee, found little room for three quarters before exploding for 70 yards in the game’s final stanza. Harris finished with 95 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. It was just as Sandlappers head coach Dean Boyd (York) had drawn it up, “We were able to run it in the fourth quarter and seal it …. It’s what I said all week …. And don’t forget those hogs up front. I got to coach those young men all week and they showed up when it mattered.”

The Sandlappers defense was outstanding from the outset and limited the Tarheels to 173 total yards on 2.7 yards/play. Coach Boyd called the defensive performance “lights out.” South Carolina also forced four North Carolina turnovers, including an interception from Byrnes defensive back Buddy Mack in the game’s final minute. The Shrine Bowl carries special importance for Mack as his sister was once a Shriner’s Hospital patient. Mack suffered a broken finger during practice, forcing him to play with a club on his right arm. Despite the injury, Mack, a Pitt signee, put the game away by trapping the ball against his jersey with his cast. Mack celebrated with his teammates as South Carolina entered victory formation, raising his cloaked right hand like a trophy.

Another Mr. Football finalist, Chapman quarterback Mikele Colasurdo, completed a pair of long passes to Hyatt (46 yards, 23-yard touchdown) before leaving with a shoulder injury. Due to Colasurdo’s injury, Carolina Forest’s Mason Garcia played the entire second half. With the game in the balance, Garcia, picked up crucial first downs with his legs throughout the fourth quarter. Garcia finished with 153 yards passing and 60 yards rushing. The East Carolina signee also produced two touchdowns, one on the ground and one through the air.

The outlook wasn’t always rosy for the Sandlappers. South Carolina suffered through two turnovers, a bobbled punt snap, a blocked punt for a touchdown, a safety and 10 penalties. But South Carolina overcame all of their miscues and a 10-7 halftime deficit to snap its non-winning streak (tie in 2018, losses in 2015-17). Coach Boyd took great pride in his players’ reaction to adversity, “We shot ourselves in the foot in the first half …. It was our team’s IQ, togetherness and our character winning in the end. And you can’t write it any better than that. That’s exactly what happened. Our kids decided right there at the end, we’re going to win this ballgame.”

Defensively, Laurens linebacker Duane Martin was equally good against the run and the pass. Surprisingly quick for his 245-pound frame, Martin patrolled passing lanes and tracked down ball carriers with agility and ferocity. The Louisville signee was credited with a team-leading eight tackles and named defensive MVP.

Final stats

Sandlappers head coach Dr. Dean Boyd