SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — South Charleston football coach Donnie Mays could hardly have scripted a better start to the 2019 season for the Black Eagles.
Playing host to George Washington on Thursday night, SC kicked off to start the game, but immediately gained possession when Tyson Rohmiller recovered a Patriots’ fumble at the GW 21-yard line.
Two plays later, Zeiqui Lawton reached the end zone on a 16-yard run to give South Charleston the early lead, and the Black Eagles never looked back in a 28-14 victory over their nearby rival.
“You talk about every possible scenario that can happen in the locker room good or bad and that was a good start so I was really pleased,” Mays said.
Turnovers were a big part of the win for SC, which forced five in the game and four in the first half.
Lawton, a junior and Division I prospect who doubles as a defensive end, made his presence felt early with the TD run. However, he left the game late in the first quarter with an injury and never returned to play on either side of the ball.
“I’ll wait for what the doctors say, but Zeiqui is a tough kid,” Mays said. “The good news is he’s a fighter and I’m sure he’ll be back.”
Lawton’s injury created an opportunity for other Black Eagles to step up and they did just that.
SC freshman quarterback Trey Dunn played like anything but a newcomer and connected with Qwailei Turner on a 52-yard pass in the opening quarter. On the same drive, after a pair of 15-yard penalties were assessed against SC, Dunn found Jah’Den Estep for 35 yards on third-and-20.
Caiden Davis capped off that drive with a 6-yard touchdown run, and the second of four point-after kicks by Chase Edwards gave SC a 14-0 lead with 1:04 to play in the opening quarter.
“It’s like throwing kerosene on a fire,” GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. said of his team’s early miscues. “They came out and got after it and we didn’t do what we needed to do. I’m really disappointed in this one tonight.”
The Patriots were on the move on the ensuing series, but quarterback R.T. Alexander had his pass intercepted by Romeo Dunham in the red zone on the second to final play of the opening quarter.
Each team lost a fumble in the second quarter, though the Patriots’ came on an 8-yard pass from Alexander to Brayden McCallister that would’ve put them inside the SC 10.
However, Dunn made his lone key mistake of the contest late in the first half when his pass was intercepted by GW’s Elijah Williams, who returned it 13 yards to the Black Eagles’ 36.
Six plays later, Alexander connected with Isaac Isabell for an 8-yard TD pass that allowed the Patriots to cut their deficit in half ahead of halftime.
Any momentum garnered by GW, however, was short-lived.
SC started the second half with posession at its 48 and covered 52 yards on eight consecutive running plays, the last of which was Davis’ 1-yard touchdown plunge that upped the lead to 21-7 at the 8:17 mark of the third quarter.
“We started hitting it up inside and it really paid off for us,” Mays said. “I liked where we were at that point in the game.”
GW’s lone turnover of the second half came on its first series when Alexander was intercepted by Donavin Davis, who covered 42 yards on the return.
On the very next play, Dunn tossed a 45-yard TD pass to Turner, who made a catch in single coverage to stretch his team’s lead to three scores with 6:01 remaining in the third.
“It’s a numbers game and Trey did a nice job,” Mays said. “He has three options on that play. Their safety was kind of shooting toward the middle so we got what we wanted and he’s one of the best receivers in the state.”
SC’s defense handled matters from there and did its part to hold GW scoreless in the second half, but Isabell returned a punt 54 yards for a touchdown with 4:50 to play.
“We challenged our secondary and they came out and played football,” Mays said. “They were all over the place.”
Dunn completed four passes for 140 yards in his debut.
The Black Eagles held GW to 164 total yards and recorded six sacks in the win.
“We’re not a very good football team right now. It’s up to them what they’re going to do from this point on,” Edwards Jr. said. “We’re going to continue to try to get better, but we weren’t a very good team tonight.”