Seminole County coach Alan Ingram said this year's region title was even sweeter than last year's.
CAMILLA --- Seminole County’s solution to the confusing Class A power ratings was pretty simple.
And Mitchell County got a heavy dose of it on Friday night.
Running backs Thomas Aiken and Daquan Hamlet combined for 235 rushing yards to lead the Indians to a 34-12 victory and Region 1-A title, punching Seminole County’s ticket to the playoffs and ending Mitchell County’s season.
“It’s power and speed,” Hamlet said about Seminole County’s 1-2 punch in the backfield.
Seminole County coach Alan Ingram had his own description.
“Hamlet, we will just ride him. That’s the bulldog,” Ingram said. “Aiken’s still a little pup … but he’s got so much talent.”
The duo powered the Indians to their seventh straight win and made a trip to the Class A playoffs a certainty. Seminole County was guaranteed at least a share of the region title entering the game, but there was no guarantee when it came to the playoffs --- not with the GHSA’s new power-rating format that ranks the Class A teams based on a list of factors.
An outright region title secures a spot in the playoffs, but a Mitchell County victory on Friday would have caused a three-way tie with the Indians, the Eagles and Miller County atop the Region 1-A standings, and Miller would have gotten the automatic bid to the playoffs based on its record against all Class A opponents, leaving Mitchell and Seminole at the mercy of the power-rating format.
Seminole County won’t need to worry about any complicated formulas anymore thanks to a region title that nobody saw coming.
Not even Ingram.
“This one just came out of nowhere,” Ingram said. “I thought going into this that we would win three or four ball games. This is a bunch of kids without a whole lot of athletic ability, but they learned how to play the game.”
Ingram called this year’s title sweeter than when last year’s senior-laden team cruised to a region championship.
“Absolutely it’s sweeter,” Ingram said. “We were celebrating and hugging each other. Just knowing what could have happened, we could have won two ball games. We got stronger and stronger every week.”
Aiken, a freshman tailback, had 121 yards and a touchdown, and Hamlet, a senior fullback, added 114 yards and two touchdowns on a night when Seminole County never trailed.
The Indians (8-2, 6-0), who won their seventh straight game and second consecutive region title, scored on their opening possession of the game when Aiken took a pitch from quarterback Jakhari Martin and ran it 54 yards into the end zone.
Mitchell County (5-5, 4-2) scored two minutes later on a 4-yard run by Jacorey Belvin, but the Eagles missed the extra point to remain behind, 7-6.
Seminole closed the half with a 25-yard TD pass from Martin to Shavon Wiggins and a 3-yard rushing TD from Hamlet to take a 20-6 lead into halftime.
The Indians dabbled with a few passing plays in the first half, but it didn’t take Ingram long to return to the running game.
“We came out right before halftime and tried to run a little waggle pass, and I said, ‘Heck with that. We gotta go back and do what we do best,’ ” Ingram said. “They said, ‘But coach we only have one play.’ And I told them that we were going to use that one play and do what we do best.”
Hamlet opened the second half with his second TD of the game on a 7-yard run to give the Indians a 27-6 lead, but Mitchell County responded with a 24-yard rushing TD from Kavoris Pollard to cut Seminole’s lead to two scores with 3:15 left in the third quarter.
The Indians, however, used Aiken and Hamlet to eat up the clock in the final quarter, and junior Javonte Smith added a 26-yard rushing TD with 4:06 left in the game to give Seminole a 22-point lead.
Mitchell County had opportunities throughout the game to put more points on the board, including a 2nd-and-goal from the 1-yard line in the second quarter when the Eagles failed to score after three offensive penalties and a sack backed them out of the red zone.
The Eagles could have cut Seminole’s lead to seven points late in the quarter when Mitchell QB Bruce Bryant floated a pass on 3rd-and-long to Pollard, but the senior WR/RB dropped a potential 49-yard TD.
Bryant finished the game 6-for-15 for 114 yards, while Pollard led the Eagles in rushing with 86 yards on 10 carries. Mitchell County senior Jocquil Chester caught four passes for 50 yards, and Pollard caught two for 64 yards.