Science Hill coach Stacy Carter evened the score – and then some – with his alma mater.
The Hilltoppers went around, over and through the Sullivan South Rebels while piling up 607 yards of offense in a 47-14 victory on Friday at Kermit Tipton Stadium.
Will Adams rushed for 186 yards and a touchdown – he would’ve had 200 if not for being credited with a 14-yard loss when he recovered a high shotgun snap in the first quarter – and Justin Snyder rushed nine times for 103 yards and two TDs and passed for two TDs in the Big Eight Conference victory.
Science Hill (3-0, 4-2) stayed tied for first in the league with Dobyns-Bennett, while the Rebels fell to 1-2 in the conference and 3-3 overall.
The Hilltoppers avenged a loss to South last year in a hard-fought game during Carter’s first season after leaving the same position with the Rebels.
“It was amazing; we just really played as hard as we could and it just felt so good to win this year,” Adams said. “We redeemed ourselves.”
Science Hill scored touchdowns on four straight possessions in the second half. The score could’ve been considerably worse. South’s offense didn’t produce a TD.
The Rebels scored the game’s opening TD when Mitchell Crowe returned an interception 86 yards after a long Hilltoppers drive, and South’s Paul Wagner returned a kickoff 94 yards for a score to get the Rebels within 20-14 with 4:49 left in the third quarter after Snyder’s 30-yard run had given Science Hill a 20-7 lead.
But Snyder answered with a 6-yard TD run 74 seconds later after Adams ran 48 yards to the Rebels 6-yard line, and the rout was on.
Jahmar Adams (12 carries 82 yards) scored on a 20-yard run to make the score 33-14. The Hilltoppers’ final two scores were a 6-yard TD pass to Aaron Greene from Snyder with 5:18 remaining and a 1-yard run by Jamaal Stephens with 1:34 left.
Snyder’s first TD pass was a play-action 5-yarder to open tight end Will Craig, which gave the ’Toppers a 13-7 lead with 1:17 left in the first half.
Will Adams’ 6-yard run with 8:24 left in the second quarter was Science Hill’s first score.
“I think our kids are playing good,” Carter said. “I’m proud of them and they’re meshing together right now. And like I say, they overcame some adversity tonight, trust me; the most I’ve ever seen since I’ve been coaching.”
Carter was less than impressed with the officiating, which included an ejection for Science Hill tight end Hank Overbay on what Carter felt was an understandable retaliation for excessive roughness after the whistle on a Will Adams run to the South 8-yard line in the fourth quarter.
Carter and company didn’t like several calls. Among those were a roughing the passer, an excessive celebration after a tackle for loss, a couple of holds that negated long gains and an unsportsmanlike call on the coaching staff.
“It was very disappointing. … I don’t know how we overcame it. … We’re lucky we’re a real good football team or we’d been out here for a loss tonight,” Carter said.
South did play three quarters without quarterback Jake Weaver, who rushed for 50 yards on eight carries before suffering what was suspected to be a sprained MCL.
“Obviously, he’s a big part of our offense,” South coach Sam Haynie said. “That hurt us when he went out. The first half we made enough plays to stay in, and the second half, I think they just kind of wore us down and then there offense made some big plays. …
“When he went out and (Alex) Rogers was coming back off a hamstring injury – I’m not making any excuses, I’m just saying that was one of our bullets. We felt like it was in his best interest and our best interest to hold him out in the second half, because that thing’s still kind of loose.”
Of course, Haynie sounded like he thought he would’ve needed Kurt Phillips to deal with the Hilltoppers on Friday.
“They’ve got athletes and Coach Carter and his staff are doing a good job getting it in their hands,” Haynie said. “They’re gonna be a heck of a team down the stretch. They can run the football. They can stop the run. You can tell they’re a lot more physical, and that’s what’s gonna win football games in the playoffs. They’ve got a chance to do some big things.”
Key plays from Science Hill came from Todd Page-Gilmore, who didn’t block a punt so much as he caught it, to give the Hilltoppers the ball at the South 42 while trailing 7-6 with 3:08 left in the second quarter.
Page-Gilmore has blossomed overnight since linebacker Luke Hampton suffered a season-ending knee injury. Carter was also quick to commend backup safety Austin Doyle for breaking up a 4th-and-6 pass around the Hilltoppers 10-yard line after safety Bradley Fulbright left the game in the third quarter.
“Doyle made a great play knocking that down,” Carter said. “I hope Bradley’s alright. I think it’s just a cramp in his calf.”
Will Adams made several crowd-pleasing plays. He appeared to begin avoiding a would-be tackler who got penetration before taken one handoff on a long run, and made an exceptional 14-yard catch at the South 17 while leaping high and managing to come down inbounds despite a hard it on a 4th-and-8.
“Man, that was a great catch,” Carter said. “He’s a heck of an athlete.”
Science Hill defenders who were key in limiting the Rebels to 229 yards of offense (South got 45 yards after Science Hill emptied the bench in the final 90 seconds) included Tate Isbell, Grant Janeway, Anthony Head, Isaiah Stephens and O’Ryen Scott, who delivered a jarring tackle on Justin Groomes after a 2-yard gain in the first half.
Jamaal Stephens rushed five times for 41 yards. Freshman quarterback Malik McGue rushed three times for 50 yards.
Due to a scheduling quirk that’s been the case in many series, Science Hill and South played at Tipton Stadium last year, too.
“I don’t know that where we would’ve played would’ve mattered tonight,” Haynie said, “because they got after us pretty good.”
Craig had three catches for 44 yards. Snyder was 12-of-19 passing for 140 yards.
Science Hill had 29 first downs, unofficially.
Hilltoppers kicker Perry Murdaugh was 5-for-5 on PAT kicks. The Hilltoppers failed on a trick play after lining up for a PAT kick after their first score, and incompleted a PAT pass in the second half.
Science Hill visits Daniel Boone on Friday. South hosts Volunteer.