By Johnny Falduto of Friday Night Final - only on The ROAR
The T.L. Hanna Yellow Jackets (2-0) pulled out a thrilling last-minute 36-29 victory over the Greenville Red Raiders (0-2) at Sirrine Stadium on Friday night in front of hundreds of fans who braved through a near two-hour lightening delay before the opening kickoff.
“It really shows just how much they care about us,” said Yellow Jackets senior quarterback Kenny Fretwell, who finished the game 5/6 completions for 72 yards and two touchdown passes, as well as adding one touchdown on the ground. “As a player, it’s really motivating to see everyone in the stands despite the delay.”
The Yellow Jackets needed all the motivation they could get early, as the first of Greenville’s Mazeo Bennett’s two touchdowns and a Thomas Guerrero field goal found them down 9-0 after the first quarter.
T.L. Hanna’s Josh Donald’s 10-yard touchdown run would get the Yellow Jackets on the board shortly into the second quarter to make it 9-7 in favor of the Red Raiders. Donald, one of the few returning key players from last season’s senior-heavy team, finished the game with 13 carries for 107 yards and a touchdown, as well as a 24-yard touchdown reception.
After regaining possession on a fumbled punt by T.L. Hanna, Greenville would expand its lead to 16-7 with Tyler Brown’s lone touchdown reception of the night at the midway point of the second quarter from sophomore quarterback Jordan Sink, who finished the game 11/20 completions for 241 yards, 3 touchdowns, and one interception.
Just when it seemed the momentum was swinging back in favor of the Red Raiders, a long Jaylon Boles touchdown reception followed by a successful surprise onside kick that led to a last-second Josh Donald touchdown and two-point conversion made it 22-16 T.L. Hanna going into the half.
“I think the coaches did a great job of keeping all the players in the right mindset and we (the players) just kept encouraging each other,” said Donald of the team’s resilience late in the first half, “Everybody else and I knew that once we got going, there was no stopping us.”
A Jayvion Sherman touchdown for the Red Raiders would mark the only score of the third quarter, giving Greenville a 23-22 advantage going into the fourth. Minutes into the final quarter, Kenny Fretwell found the end zone on a quarterback sneak but was unable to convert the two-point conversion, making it 28-23 Yellow Jackets with just over seven minutes remaining in the game.
Only plays later, Mazeo Bennett would answer with his second score of the night, but the Red Raiders were unable to convert their own critical two-point attempt to extend their lead beyond 29-28.
With just 0:54 remaining on the clock, T.L. Hanna junior Jaylen Harrison exploded his way into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown, with a successful two-point conversion bringing the final score to 36-29.
“Greenville is a great team with a lot of talent,” said T.L. Hanna fullback SaSheen Latimer, who finished the game with 17 rushes for 98 yards, “That game could’ve gone either way, but we kept pushing through and playing hard.”
Quarterback Kenny Fretwell credits the team’s preparation for the win: “We knew that their offense was going to be electric, and we knew that we were going to have to capitalize on our drives. Our scout defense was giving us good looks all week and I think that's how we were able to come out on top.”
Greenville’s Week 0 loss to Dorman left many predicting that the top-ten 4A team would make a statement against T.L. Hanna, but Hanna’s Josh Donald remained unfazed: “We're still going to treat every game with the same mentality, but this does lift spirits even more, especially knowing that there were a lot of doubts coming from the outside and talks of big names from the other team…but we as a team know what we are capable of.”
T.L. Hanna looks to continue its hot start to the season next Friday at home against Westside, while Greenville looks to get into the win column with James F. Byrnes making the trip to the historic Sirrine Stadium.
“The sky is the limit for this team, we have the talent to be great,” said Kenny Fretwell, “We just need to continue to put in work week to week and we can reach our full potential.”
Tune in to our Tri-County Tech High School Football Game of the Week, Friday nights at 7pm.