JOHNSTON, S.C. --- Having already experienced defeat once this season because of special teams play, Strom Thurmond turned the tables in a 35-0 victory against South Aiken on Friday night.
Senior Demarkus Smith returned a Thoroughbred punt 51 yards midway through the opening quarter to hand Strom Thurmond (2-2) a lead it would not relinquish.
In the second quarter, a South Aiken (0-4) punt of just 28 yards gave the Rebels a short field to work with and the Strom Thurmond offense scored in six plays, as running back Chris Blocker capped the drive with a 10-yard burst up the middle. In the third quarter, Strom Thurmond linebacker Marcelis Thompson returned a Tanner Hawley pass 44 yards for another score to put the Rebels firmly in control at 21-0.
Still, the night was not without flaws for the Rebels. Strom Thurmond was penalized 10 times for 90 yards and the offense was unable to mount a sustained drive of any length against the Thoroughbreds.
"We didn't do a whole lot with the ball when we had it tonight, but we were able to do some things on special teams and play very good defense," Strom Thurmond coach Lee Sawyer said.
The final two scores in the game were set up by special teams.
A horrible snap sailed over South Aiken punter Ben Donath's outstretched arms, handing the Rebels the ball at the Thoroughbred 5. Strom Thurmond punched it in three plays later on a 1-yard run by Martinez Gallman with 1:43 in the third quarter to make the score 28-0. Minutes later, with the quarter winding down, the Rebels forced another Thoroughbred punt that Smith brought back 25 yards to the South Aiken 12.
Strom Thurmond quarterback Raleigh Yeldell scored on a keeper on the next play.
"I thought that we played pretty well defensively tonight, I really did, we just made some mistakes on special teams and we didn't move the ball on offense," South Aiken coach Robert Wrightenberry said.
S. THURMOND 35, SOUTH AIKEN 0
PLAY OF THE GAME: Demarkus Smith took a punt untouched for a 51-yard score that put Strom Thurmond ahead for good.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Smith gave the Rebels all the points they would need, but Marcelis Thompson had the defensive highlight with a 44-yard interception return for a score early in the third quarter.
WHY STROM THURMOND WON: The Rebels' defense held the Thoroughbreds to just 59 total yards of offense.
WHY SOUTH AIKEN LOST: The Thoroughbreds gave up chunks of yards on punt returns and snapped one punt over the head of punter Ben Donath that set the Rebels up inside the 10.
WHAT'S NEXT: Silver Bluff (3-1) at Strom Thurmond (2-2), 7:30.; South Aiken (0-4) at Barnwell (0-4), 7:30.