Fort Mill head coach Rob McNeely hugged everyone he could see in the minutes following Fort Mill’s emotional 21-13 home victory over Lugoff-Elgin Friday night at Bob Jones Stadium.
But when he got into a huddle of his jubilant Yellow Jackets, who improved to 1-3, he told his team to never let winning change their attitude.
“It ain’t never gonna be easy,” he said, dripping from the Gatorade bath his players had just given him. “Never wish it was easy. You keep fighting. You keep loving the Jacket beside you.”
Truth be told, nothing was easy about Fort Mill’s victory, which snapped a 17-game losing streak dating back to September 2019, when they beat Lancaster at home.
Running back Michael Threatt, who had 25 carries for 129 yards, scored both of Fort Mill’s touchdowns and Gannon Burt snagged a 21-yard pick-six to secure an emotional first win of the season on Homecoming Night.
Threatt admitted he was gassed after his big night, but he said he was glad he did his part.
“It felt amazing,” he said. “We want to earn it each time, each play, each rep. We win our way. We work too hard for this.”
Fort Mill is scheduled to enjoy a bye week next Friday before starting their Region 3-5A schedule against local rival Nation Ford at home on Oct. 1.
Lugoff-Elgin dropped to 0-4 and looked the likeliest to score from the first kick.
After trading punts on the opening possessions, the Demons started a drive on Fort Mill’s 47. Quarterback Brauton Gardner engineered a drive to get Lugoff-Elgin down to the Fort Mill 1-yard line, but back-to-back penalties knocked the visitors back to the Fort Mill 22.
The Demons attempted a 35-yard field goal, but kicker Asher Warner couldn’t connect from that distance.
In the second quarter, Lugoff-Elgin drove as far as the Fort Mill 18 with about six minutes left in the first half, but the Jackets’ defense swarmed a Jylil Favor rush on third down, setting up a fourth and 20, which the Demons couldn’t convert.
Fort Mill finally broke the deadlock on its final drive of the first half, taking over on its own 16 with three minutes to go. Threatt racked up runs of 16 and 12 yards, but the Jackets also benefited from two pass interference calls to earn critical first downs and push the team deep into Demons’ territory. Threatt was able to scamper into the end zone from 16 yards out with a play up the middle of the formation to put Fort Mill up 7-0.
Lugoff-Elgin had one last chance before the end of the half. Backup quarterback Jake Morris helped push the visitors into Fort Mill’s half with solid throws on the edge. With two minutes left, he nearly connected with wide receiver Blease Campbell, who was racing down the sideline without a defender in sight, but Campbell couldn’t corral the ball into his arms.
Lugoff-Elgin finally broke its luck after halftime. On their second possession of the second half, the Demons drove from their own 37 down to the Fort Mill two-yard line, where Favor burst in to tie the game at 7-7.
And they replicated that spirit on the next Demons drive, driving from their own 33 down to the Fort Mill red zone. Campbell hauled in a 17-yard catch from Morris to put the visitors up 13-7 after a botched snap on the PAT kick attempt.
But Fort Mill showed resolve, answering on the very next drive. Threatt scampered for 28 yards to set up Fort Mill inside the Demons’ five, then scored himself just a couple plays later to put the Jackets back on top 14-13 with less than five minutes to play.
Fort Mill’s defense earned a three-and-out, and the offense did well to burn the clock on their end. By the time Lugoff-Elgin got the ball back, the Demons had just 1:16 left to play.
Morris threw an incompletion, then a dart that got picked off by Burt, who rumbled into the end zone to score and give Fort Mill a 21-13 advantage that the Jackets would hold on to until the final whistle.
“I’m happy for them, I’m happy for those who couldn’t be here tonight,” McNeely said. “These kids just have to believe they can win, and that’s half the battle. Nothing is gonna be given to you. That’s where you work, that’s where you find the strength to come out with it.”