It was a scrap from start to finish in The Tank, but the May River Sharks are still the top dogs in the Hometown Showdown. Jaiden Jones rushed for 174 yards and two touchdowns Friday, powering the Sharks to a 14-7 home victory over Bluffton to maintain their grasp on the No. 2 seed in Region 7-4A.
The home side dominated early thanks to tough running from Jones and some efficient throws from Tanner Macy, orchestrating a methodical 12-play, 72-yard drive capped off by a 5-yard Jones run. Both defenses settled in throughout the rest of the first quarter, as May River’s Thomas Raisch and Bluffton’s JaQuinn Williams and Jeremiah Curry feasted for key stops.
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Max Vonhohenstraeten returned for his first action since the Bridge Bowl, but he struggled to find the touch to connect with his receivers early on. The Sharks got the ball back and continued to pound the ball with Jones as the first half ticked down, but they couldn’t beat the clock to the end zone, as a well-designed last-ditch reverse to Gage Duncan was shut down at the Bobcat 6 thanks to a hustling Williams. Hayden Gregory’s side was hanging around, and would receive the second-half kickoff trailing just 7-0.
Vonhohenstraeten started out strong after the break, going to reliable receiver Jaylin Linder right away for a 24-yard gain. After a carry and reception by Camauri Simmons set up the Bobcats inside May River territory, Vonhohenstraeten again hit an open Linder, who sped his way inside the 10. But the Sharks tightened up on defense and forced a missed field goal to keep their rivals off the board.
An offensive penalty stymied May River’s ensuing drive, and a hungry Bobcat offense strode back onto the field. Gregory’s squad knew it wouldn’t let another red-zone trip come up empty, and Vonhohenstraeten delivered. The senior quarterback hooked up with his main man on third down, sizzling a perfect pass to Linder on a crossing route, and the star wideout beat the defender to the football near the first right pylon.
Just like that, the game was tied.
May River was controlling total yards and time of possession, but some tough penalties prevented the Sharks from sustaining drives. Duncan got the Sharks rolling again with a 13-yard run to approach midfield before an unfortunate injury on the Bobcat side halted play. Linebacker Shane Whittaker was trying to evade a lead blocker before taking a hit to the upper body and leaving the game with a neck injury.
The Sharks continued to grind away on the ground, forcing an offside call on Bluffton for a first down and picking up efficient carries from Jones and Darrion Perry. Jones finished off the drive early in the fourth quarter, cutting to the outside and using his quick legs to find the end zone for a 14-7 lead.
Bluftton’s Brandon Bryant hit Linder for 29 yards as the Bobcats looked for the tie in Shark territory, but a 15-yard penalty pushed the visitors back. Simmons got some yardage back on third down before an anxious May River defense jumped early to turn a fourth-and-11 into fourth-and-6, but the Sharks were ready to shut down the ‘Cats on the next snap.
Roderick Buxton took a quick handoff before getting stuffed by a pack of Sharks at the line, ending the drive and giving the ball back to Jones, and he made sure his rivals never saw the ball again, grinding away the rest of the clock to seal a fifth straight victory over the Bobcats.
Jones led the way on the ground, racking up 174 yards and two scores on 33 carries. Macy added 80 rushing yards on 17 attempts, and Duncan caught four passes for 32 yards while picking up 41 rushing yards on two touches. Vonhohenstraeten completed 14 of 24 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown, while Linder snagged five passes for 122 yards and his 11th TD reception of the season.
May River (4-5, 3-1) will look to secure the No.2 seed in Region 7-4A in a home matchup with Hilton Head on Friday, while Bluffton (3-6, 1-3) closes out the regular season Friday in a home matchup with Colleton County.
By Wes Kerr
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