WILLISTON, S.C. --- Williston-Elko players and coaches held their index fingers up in celebration Friday night.
One championship down, one to go.
With a fast-strike offense and a big-play defense, the Blue Devils rolled past Ware Shoals, 44-20, in the Class A Division II Upper State championship game.
Williston-Elko (13-0) advanced to play Scott's Branch in the finals at noon Friday in Orangeburg, S.C. Last year, the Blue Devils lost to Scott's Branch, 14-6, in the state championship game.
"It means a lot to get back after last year," quarterback Tamyn Garrick said. "That left a bad taste in our mouth."
Running back Kendric Salley and running back/wide receiver Dexter Staley each accounted for three touchdowns as Williston-Elko rolled up 321 yards of total offense. Salley ran 13 times for 133 of the Blue Devils' 192 rushing yards. Staley posted four receptions for 126 yards, along with eight carries for 30 yards.
Ware Shoals barely had gotten off the bus good when it found itself in a deep hole. Williston-Elko scored on its first three drives to establish an early 24-0 lead. Dvarius Hosey set the tone when he opened the game with a 47-yard kickoff return, which gave Williston-Elko the ball at the 18. Four plays later, Salley punched it in from the 1.
The Hornets then lost a fumble at their 15 on their second play from scrimmage. Four plays and a huge pass interference call later, Staley scored on a 3-yard run.
Later in the first quarter, the Blue Devils needed 63 seconds for a four-play, 53-yard scoring drive. Salley's 2-yard scamper sent the Williston-Elko fans into a frenzy.
"Coach said to be a championship team," Staley said, "you've got to start off strong."
Ware Shoals' Wing-T attack drove up and down the field to the tune of 435 total yards, including 392 rushing yards. Running back Nick Davis posted a game-high 230 yards on 17 carries, including touchdown runs of 57 and 71 yards.
But the Hornets killed themselves with four turnovers, two in each half. Ware Shoals also was held twice on fourth down in the first half and went into intermission trailing, 30-6.
"We kept bending and bending and bending," Blue Devils coach Dwayne Garrick said. "But we didn't break."
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WILLISTON-ELKO 44, WARE SHOALS 20
PLAY OF THE GAME: With Ware Shoals gaining momentum late in the third quarter, Williston-Elko's Tamyn Garrick found Dexter Staley down the sideline for a 65-yard TD pass on third down to extend the Blue Devils' lead to 36-12.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Williston Elko's Kendric Salley . The running back rushed for 133 yards on 17 carries and scored three touchdowns.
WHY WILLISTON-ELKO WON: The Blue Devils' defense made more big plays, collecting two fumbles and two picks.
WHY WARE SHOALS LOST: The Hornets gained 435 yards of total offense but hurt their chances with four turnovers.
WHAT'S NEXT: Williston-Elko (13-0) in Class A Division II state championship game vs. Scott's Branch at noon Friday in Orangeburg, S.C.