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Rowland along: Laurence Manning back leads Swampcats to 41-20 victory over Florence Christian

By EDDIE LITAKER | Special to The Sumter Item

MANNING — Laurence Manning Academy’s varsity football team held off a late charge from Florence Christian School to earn a 41-20 win in its home opener on Friday at Billy Chitwood Field.

The Swampcats led 7-0 at the half on the strength of a 49-yard Wyatt Rowland run on LMA’s first possession. The Eagles, the defending SCISA 2A state champions, had taken the opening kickoff and drove from their 35-yard line to the LMA 2 before Marshall Brown coughed the ball up following an 11-yard run, setting up a 98-yard drive that also included a 28-yard Rowland run and a 20-yard pass from Burgess Jordan to Rowland.

After Mickey Jordan took the second-half kickoff for 24 yards to the LMA 44, Rowland broke free again, this time going 56 yards for the score on the first play from scrimmage. Jackson Lee’s second successful PAT kick of the night gave the Swampcats a 14-0 lead just 19 seconds into the second half.

LMA’s defense held FCS without a first down on its next possession, setting the offense up at the Eagle 45 after a punt. Seven consecutive rushes netted six points for the Swampcats, with Bennett Stephens taking it for the final four yards. Lee’s PAT pushed the advantage to 21-0 with 6:12 on the clock.

After moving the ball well on the ground with nothing to show for it through 2 1/2 quarters, the Eagles finally got on the board on a 10-yard Ethan Kelly run. Brown broke around the right side for a 29-yard run to begin what would be a 6-play, 77-yard drive. Kelly added a 2-point conversion run to cut the LMA lead to 21-8 at the 3:35 mark.

That score would stand at the end of three quarters, but there would be plenty of fireworks in the final 12 minutes. Jordan would score on runs of 36 and 58 yards, sandwiched around a 61-yard pass from Robbie Jordan to Harrison Forehand that came one play after the 36-yard run.

FCS would successfully execute an onside kick, gaining possession at the LMA 47, before fumbling the ball away on the next play, setting up Burgess Jordan’s 58-yard scamper three plays later. A bad snap would derail the PAT kick attempt as a run came up short, leaving the score at 34-14 with 4:36 to go.

Both teams added a score before the game was done, with Mickey Jordan returning an interception 47 yards for the LMA touchdown and Kelly crossing the goal line on a 37-yard run.

Rowland had eight carries for 155 yards and three receptions for 63 yards, with Burgess Jordan also carrying eight times for 132 yards and completing four of 10 passes for 73 yards and an interception.

“They are probably the best team we’ve seen up front to this point,” LMA head coach Austin Floyd said of the Eagles, who fell to 1-2 as the Swampcats improved to 2-0. “In the second half we were just able to make a few more plays and get a couple of more turnovers (after both teams had a turnover apiece in the first half), and that ended up kind of being the difference. Our guys played hard, and Burgess and Wyatt had to carry the load a little bit. For us to be successful, they’re going to have to because you’ve got to get the ball into the hands of the guys that can make plays. It’s a team effort, and we’re very happy to be able to beat them, one of the best, if not the best, 2A team in the state.”

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