AIKEN --- It wasn't much of a shocker that Airport quarterback W.T. Murden led his team to a 56-24 win at South Aiken on Friday night. The surprise was the way he did it.
The senior beat the Thoroughbreds with his feet. Murden's arm, which had thrown more than 1,100 yards in seven previous games, took most of the night off and gave way to an Airport ground game that put up 364 yards and seven touchdowns. Murden picked up 207 of those yards and five rushing touchdowns. He added 178 passing yards and another score through the air in the victory.
"I'll tell you right now, I underestimated his speed," South Aiken coach Robert Wrightenberry said. "He didn't look near as quick on film."
Most of Murden's rushing yards came on option plays. He said South Aiken forced him into the big rushing night when the Thoroughbreds' defense surprised Airport with man coverage.
"We planned to throw a lot more, but they ran a different coverage. We didn't expect that," Murden said. "I wanted to get the ball to my running backs, but (South Aiken) kept buying the fake."
The game was billed as a possible Region 5-AAA title contest on the South Aiken side, as the Thoroughbreds (3-5) entered with a three-game winning streak. But Airport, which improved to 8-0 on the season, all but sealed a region championship in dominating fashion.
South Aiken hung with the Eagles through the first half and even led 17-14 on a pair of Chris Johnson touchdown runs and a Ben Donath 24-yard field goal with 4:43 left in the second quarter. Johnson finished with 111 yards on 21 carries.
Airport answered with a touchdown in the final minute of the first half, then scored 21 unanswered points in the third quarter to blow the game open.
Eagles tailback Ryan Smith added 125 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.
Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
AIRPORT 56, SOUTH AIKEN 24
PLAY OF THE GAME: After holding South Aiken to three-and-out, Airport quarterback W.T. Murden ran 51 yards untouched for the first of three third-quarter touchdowns.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Murden rushed for 207 yards and five touchdowns and added 178 passing yards and another score.
WHY AIRPORT WON: The Eagles showed their versatility by dropping the passing game in favor of the run for seven touchdowns and 364 yards on the ground.
WHY SOUTH AIKEN LOST: The home team tried but failed to keep up offensively with one of the state's top Class AAA offenses.
NEXT: South Aiken at Swansea, 7:30 p.m., Friday; Airport vs. Dreher, 7:30, Friday.