Friday Rewind: How White Knoll went into The Swamp and dominated River Bluff

It’s been more than 900 days since Nick Pelham took over as head coach of the White Knoll football program.

Pelham reflected on how far his team has come in that time during his postgame remarks after a 40-0 win over River Bluff on Friday in the Region 4-5A opener.

“It’s been over 900 days to show what we are about and our community is about,” Pelham said. “When we got to White Knoll, nobody was proud of playing football there and we wanted to change that with our weight room, with how we practice and our demands, expectations.”

The seventh-ranked Timberwolves improved to 6-0 on the season and get powerhouse Dutch Fork next Friday in a game that will go a long way to deciding the region champion. Pelham spent five seasons at Dutch Fork as defensive coordinator for the Silver Foxes, who won five straight titles while he was there.

But Pelham left to try and build his own championship program. While he says White Knoll is still a bit away from that, the change in the program has been noticeable.

White Knoll was winless in the COVID-shortened 2020 season before he arrived. Since then, the Timberwolves have shown growth in each of his three years. White Knoll started 6-0 last season but lost three of four region games and lost 36-25 to TL Hanna in the first round of the playoffs.

This year, the Wolves are again undefeated but have a veteran group, many of which started as sophomores his first year. They’re ready to make a push for a region title and a deep postseason run.

“Looking back, we were a terrible football team my sophomore year,” senior Jaden Kimble said. “Now, we are light years from that. We are bigger, faster, stronger. Everything is better, honestly.”

The Timberwolves used a dominating first half for their sixth straight victory. White Knoll led 34-0 at halftime. River Bluff dropped to 5-2 overall.

Kimble ran for a pair of touchdowns and freshman running back Tiyon Fanning hit Hasan Lee on a trick play to put the Wolves up 10-0.

Quarterback Landon Sharpe had one of his two passing touchdowns in the first half, finding Austin Cunningham to make it 31-0 in the second quarter. It was Cunningham’s first game after suffering an injury in the preseason.

Sharpe finished 12-of-20 for 221 yards passing. The Timberwolves outgained the Gators, 483-78, and held them to just three first downs.

“We are a community of toughness and I love it,” Pelham said. “We don’t have all the bells and whistles and a stadium like this (River Bluff). But what we have is tough kids, tough parents and a great administration. We have everything we need to keep building a great program at White Knoll.”

How the other unbeatens fared

White Knoll was one of four unbeaten teams in the area with the other three, Irmo, Gilbert and Cardinal Newman, also staying perfect.

Irmo (6-0) won its Region 5-4A opener with a 63-8 victory over Richland Northeast. Running back Jaden Allen Hendrix rushed for four touchdowns, and quarterback AJ Brand threw for three scores and ran for one.

Gilbert (6-0) got a big game from Trevon Williamson in the 35-7 win over Lower Richland. Williamson rushed for 158 yards and two touchdowns. QB Drake Braddock threw for 240 yards and a TD.

Cardinal Newman moved to 6-0 with a 49-0 win over John Paul II. Quarterback Duncan Skehan threw three TD passes. Cortez Lane ran for two scores and caught a TD pass. Jar’kese Grant also had two TD scores.

AC Flora survives upset bid

A.C. Flora rallied from a 12-point second-half deficit to defeat Westwood, 36-33, in the Region 5-4A opener for both teams.

Aidan Moseley had three touchdown runs for the Falcons (3-3), who trailed 33-21 with eight minutes left in the third quarter. Flora QB Roper Wentzky also had two TD passes.

Quentin McGill had three touchdown runs in the loss for the Redhawks.

Defense prevails for Lexington

Cam Morris ran for two touchdowns and Montrell Byrd returned a fumble as Lexington defeated Chapin, 22-14, in the region opener for both teams.

Tanner Short and Brady Albro each had TD runs for Chapin. The Eagles had a chance to tie it in the fourth quarter but the Wildcats picked off Albro twice in the quarter, including once inside the 20-yard line.

Around the Midlands

Ridge View 28, Lugoff-Elgin 7: Quarterback Breylon Boyd threw two touchdown passes to Jordon Gidron and also ran for a score in the Region 5-4A opener for both teams.

Camden 44, Lakewood 0: Ja Mayrant and Avaree Hickmon each had two touchdown runs and Grayson White had a pair of touchdown passes as the Bulldogs won their Region 5-3A opener. White also went over 5,000 yards passing in his career.

Hammond 42, Laurence Manning 10: Kinson Holland ran for two touchdowns and Mike Tyler had a pair of TD catches in the Skyhawks’ victory.

Blythewood 28, Fort Mill 7: Quentin Solomon ran for two touchdown passes and the Bengals’ defense was strong in Region 3-5A opening victory. Edward Robinson had five sacks for Blythewood, which finished with 12 sacks as a team.

Saluda 42, Pelion 13: Jaylen Bledsoe rushed for 119 yards and two touchdowns in the Tigers’ victory.

Gray Collegiate 56, Portal (Ga.) 35: BJ Montgomery, Caleb Ford and Blaine Redmond each had two touchdowns as the War Eagles defeated Portal. S.C. State commit Willie Offord had five catches for 105 yards and a TD.

Airport 14, Aiken 12: The Eagles won their region opener and moved to 5-2 on the season. Shiloh Perry had a TD and Bryant Cherry returned a fumble for a touchdown.

Brookland-Cayce 56, Orangeburg-Wilkinson 13: The Bearcats rolled in their Region 5-3A opener.

Dreher 51, Swansea 7: Colby Fuller threw four TD passes to Riley Croxton as the Blue Devils rolled in its Region 5-3A opener. Croxton finished with five catches for 135 yards.

Newberry 56, Eau Claire 0: Careem Gibson scored two touchdowns and Steven Joseph picked off three passes in the Bulldogs’ victory.

Fairfield Central 41, Mid-Carolina 0: The Griffins scored all of their points in the first half to improve to 5-2 on the season.

Richard Winn 51, Conway Christian 0: Drew Spires rushed for 104 yards and a TD and also returned an interception for a score in the Eagles’ victory. QB Charlie Bonds threw two touchdowns and Eli Smith caught a TD pass and ran for one.