Santa Fe High Loses in Heartbreak

The atmosphere was palpable in Santa Fe High versus Lanier County game Friday. The Raiders came into their home opener looking for improvement from their seven-point loss against cross-county rival Newberry High last week. Their opponent? The out-of-state Lanier County Bulldogs.

First Quarter

Lanier County got the ball first in the game and took zero time to find the endzone as they scored in just three plays to start the game. The Raiders responded quickly as running back Keimarion Neal scored a 22-yard touchdown to tie the game up at 7.

While it looked like a shootout, it was a defensive battle between the two schools. After each school’s drive ended on a three and out, the Bulldogs were driving into Raiders’ territory. From across the field, defensive back Caleb Johnson intercepted the Bulldogs’ pass, giving the momentum back to the Raiders. Unfortunately, Santa Fe could not convert on third down, as they punted the ball back to Lanier County as the quarter ends tied at 7. 

2nd Quarter

On the pursuing Bulldogs’ drive, a chop block from the Lanier County offensive line negated a 30-yard pass on third down, backing the Bulldogs into their 15-yard line. A punt from Lanier County and a good return from KJ Johnson gave the Raiders great field possession at the opponent’s 30-yard line. A couple of plays later quarterback James Smith threw an absolute beauty to wide receiver Amarion Cason as he beat his man and cruised into the endzone giving the Raiders the lead 14-7.

Lanier County looked to respond quickly as they converted two third-down runs and were approaching Raiders territory. The following three plays are as followed: A Elijah Daniels tackle for loss, a sack from multiple Raiders, and then an interception by number 28 Bobby Herera. Santa Fe could not find the same success on offense as they punted after another three and out. With two minutes left in the half, Lanier County was driving down the field, but as time expired, the Bulldogs’ quarterback heaved the ball down the field just for it to be intercepted by KJ Johnson, who had himself a great game last Friday night. 

3rd Quarter

The Raiders got the ball first in the second half, but things could’ve gone better after yet another three and out. As Lanier County was gaining momentum back, a sack from number 16 Blake McCormick caused fourth down. Lanier County went for it but was stopped in the backfield by multiple Raiders.

Santa Fe couldn’t do anything with the great field position and punted it back to Lanier County. The following drive my Lanier County was the turning point of the game as they converted multiple third and fourth down conversions.

4th Quarter

Following a fourth and one conversion, the Bulldogs rolled into the endzone on a 20-yard run play which tied the game at 14 a piece. After a false start on the offensive line, the Raiders completed a short pass play but was taken back by a holding call which set the Raiders back even farther. An incomplete pass lead up to third and long in which the Raiders set up a draw play that was unsuccessful, leading to great field position for Lanier County.

But as things seem to become bleak, a big hit out of bounds gave Santa Fe some energy. After two unsuccessful run plays, the Santa Fe defensive line got home to the quarterback and Ethan Thomas stripped the quarterback and got the ball back for his team. Things couldn’t have gone worse for the Raiders as the first play of the drive was an interception for Lanier County. However, the Santa Fe defense came to play as they stopped the Bulldogs in their tracks, giving the ball back to the Santa Fe offense with two minutes left in the ball game.

Santa Fe quarterback James Smith and receiver KJ Johnson seem to have a great bond as every target and completion on this drive were directed to Johnson. After multiple short passes, the raiders were advancing into Bulldog territory. As Smith heaved the ball 20 yards down the field, Johnson made a diving catch to set up 1st and 10 at the Bulldog 20-yard line – except a questionable illegal touching call on Johnson negated the pass. Subsequently following the penalty, a few failed hail-mary attempts at the endzone caused the game to go into overtime. 

 Overtime

The Raiders got the ball first in OT but after another false start penalty backed the Raiders up five yards. The yardage was too much as they were unable to convert on third down. Lanier County only needed a field goal to win. Following three short run plays, the Lanier County kicker drilled a short field goal, giving the Bulldogs the win 17-14.

Santa Fe High School plays its next game at Palatka on Friday, September 9.

About Nick VanZandt

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