YORK – Down 20-0, Fort Mill quarterback Isaiah Haynes needed something, anything to help turn around his team’s fortunes midway through the second and final quarter of Friday’s scrimmage against the Laurens High Raiders.
Facing third and seven after starting the game with a string of three-and-outs, Haynes tossed up a long ball and receiver Landon Kurtz was waiting on the other side of it. That was the catalyst the Yellow Jackets needed to enter Laurens territory.
Just a few plays later, Haynes found senior tight end Gannon Burt in the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown, and Fort Mill was finally on the board.
Fort Mill fell to Laurens 20-13 Friday evening at the inaugural Bill Pate White Rose Football Classic at York Comprehensive High School, but the Jackets showed plenty of grit by scoring two touchdowns in the final eight minutes.
Head coach Rob McNeely said his team showed plenty of physical toughness, but wanted to focus on improving his team’s offensive line ahead of the regular season.
“We’ve got some skill guys who can pick up yards with the ball in their hands,” he said. “But the game is won and lost on the line. Our offensive line has to get better. We’ve got to start bullying some people and pushing people around.”
Haynes threw for a touchdown and ran for another as time expired to cut the lead to just seven.
The senior quarterback helped drive his team 86-yards with less than 40 seconds to play on the final drive. Haynes ran for 20 yards, earned a favorable penalty call for getting hit out of bounds on another run, then tossed a long bomb to receiver Van Piercy, who fell out of bounds at the Laurens one-yard line.
Haynes ran in for the score himself from about a yard out as time expired. The quarterback called the team “family.”
“We’ve got to bring the energy, man,” he said. “When we want it, we can get it. That’s what we’ve got to do, work hard every play.”
Fort Mill struggled to settle into the game, which featured two 12-minute quarters. The Yellow Jackets punted on their first handful of drives.
McNeely lamented his team’s unfavorable field position situations. Laurens opened the scoring with a 41-yard touchdown late from quarterback James Rawl Jr. to receiver Jaedon Goodwin in the first quarter after the Raiders took over from a punt deep in Fort Mill territory.
Fort Mill struggled with ball security, with one snap sailing past Haynes on the next possession, ending in a loss of about 20-yards.
Laurens doubled its lead on the ensuing Raiders’ drive. Rawl Jr. combined a couple of mid-range receptions to put Laurens in the red zone. He executed a 13-yard QB sneak to get to the Fort Mill goal line, then called his own number again to give Laurens a 14-0 lead.
Fort Mill turned the ball over again on its next drive, with Haynes fumbling the snap on third and 10. Laurens took over on the Fort Mill 22, and Rawl Jr. tossed a 22-yard score to receiver Cayson Elledge to put the visitors up 20-0.
But Haynes and company refused to give up. Haynes found his receiver on the long ball, used his legs effectively, and helped push the Yellow Jackets back into contention.
“He got the guys rolling,” said McNeely. “We put ourselves in a bind with field position. Physically, I’m proud of our guys. We’ve got to cut the mental mistakes.”
Fort Mill will open the regular season with a non-region home game 7:30 p.m. Fri., Aug. 19 against cross-town rival Catawba Ridge.
Eight total teams took part in the Bill Pate White Rose Classic, including Providence, Blythewood, Clover, Providence Day, Clinton, and York.