SIMPSONVILLE – Avery McFadden had no doubt.
Neither did his coach.
After his fumble deep in Boiling Springs territory wiped out a promising drive, clinging to a 7-6 lead, the Rams badly needed to make a play.
So, they turned to their playmaker.
The Rams’ defense forced a punt, and McFadden ripped off a big return, stumbling as he tried to get past the kicker. Three plays later, he was standing in the end zone after making a defender miss at the 5 with a stutter-step off a direct-snap run. The score pushed Hillcrest’s lead to 14-6 on the way to a 21-6 victory over the Bulldogs.
“I let my team down,” McFadden said of his fumble. “It’s my fault. I take responsibility for it. I just wanted to go make a play.”
He made plays all night. McFadden was the offensive bright spot in a night that didn’t have very many either way. He scored the Rams’ first touchdown of the night from 39 yards out as the QB from a short yardage package. His second was the five-yarder to double the Rams’ lead. His last one came with a shade under three minutes left, a simple sideline route in which he shook a pair of defenders and raced 41 yards for the clincher.
“That was all him,” Hillcrest coach Bennett Swygert said of McFadden’s final touchdown. “He’s tremendous. You saw it. We’ll snap it to him, we’ll hand it to him, we’ll throw it to him. He played corner tonight. Man, that kid’s a football player. I don’t know necessarily what he is, but he is a dog, and he’s a very, very good football player. He’s going to do well when somebody smarter than me evaluates him and puts him in a position at the next level.”
McFadden finished the night with 131 yards from scrimmage, a little less than half of Hillcrest’s 305 total. He did it while recording snaps at back, receiver, quarterback, cornerback, and kick returner.
“Avery is our guy,” Swygert said. “If we can’t get behind a guy like that, who works as hard as he does, who knows as much as he does, we’re not going to be a good football team. We have 100 percent faith in our guys, but especially Avery. All we’re trying to do is get the ball in our best player’s hands and let him make a play, and he’s done that for us so far this season.”
The Rams needed every play. Boiling Springs played lights-out for most of the night on defense, with Calvin Jackson leading the way. He notched seven tackles, a tackle for loss, and two sacks, the second of which gave Boiling Springs a chance with 5:35 to play, trailing 14-6.
Hillcrest’s defense was just as strong, however. They held Boiling Springs to 229 yards of total offense, including just 60 on the ground, and limited the Bulldogs to one score, Lincoln Huskey’s 37-yard scoring strike to Tristian Horsey-Johnson. D.J. Henderson led the way for the Bulldogs, with two tackles for loss and a pair of fumble recoveries.
“That defense keeps bailing us out and keeps getting us out of trouble,” Swygert said. “They played through some adversity, and they stayed focus. D.J. was unbelievable. That whole front four was flying around.”