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RELIVE THE STATE CHAMPIONSHIP

South Florence wins first state football championship

From the COMPLETE LIST OF STORIES FROM SOUTH FLORENCE'S STATE CHAMPIONSHIP SPECIAL SECTION series
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South Florence coach Drew Marlowe gets an ice bath after his team won the SCHSL Class 4A state championship on Saturday night at Columbia’s Charlie W. Johnson Stadium. It’s the first state football crown in program history.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Florence believed it was a team of destiny.

Now, the state of South Carolina knows it.

Coach Drew Marlowe’s top-ranked Bruins left no doubt Saturday night, capturing the program’s first state football championship with a 57-30 win over Northwestern in the SCHSL’s Class 4A final at Charlie W. Johnson Stadium. It’s the first state football championship won by a Florence One School since 2007 when Wilson won it all in 3A.

South Florence is not just a team of destiny, it’s one of perfection at 15-0.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted. Now that I’m here, I have a lot more joy seeing these guys celebrate than myself,” said Drew Marlowe, South’s third-year coach who was fresh off an ice bath courtesy of his players. “It has been a long three years, and I’m really proud of these guys.”

Along that road to perfection, the Bruins proved doubters wrong, one by one. They clobbered then-No. 1 South Pointe. They won their first game at Myrtle Beach. Then, as the state’s top-ranked team in a late-season showdown against then-No. 3 West Florence, South snapped a six-game losing streak in that series to win 45-14.

In Saturday’s game — the Bruins’ biggest ever — they delivered their biggest performance. South quarterback LaNorris Sellers passed for 260 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 192 and another score.

“Unbelievable,” Marlowe said. “It’s hard to put into words what that dude can do because he can do everything. He fought his tail off tonight. It was tough sledding down there. (Northwestern) was good on defense. He took what they gave him; he was patient and never got down. He’s a great player and the best player in the state.”

Receiver Evin Singletary caught five of Sellers’ passes for 126 yards and three touchdowns. And teammate Jayden Sellers (LaNorris’ younger brother) caught four for 122 and two scores of his own.

“LaNorris said he was going to trust me on multiple plays, and he put the ball where I could get it,” Jayden said.

South Florence had a memorable start when Singletary made a spectacular dive to catch Sellers’ first TD toss from 33 yards for a 7-0 lead.

“I think that really turned it on for us,” said LaNorris Sellers, a Shrine Bowl selection and finalist for Mr. Football. “Just that first big shot, it let us know we could throw it on them and we could run it on them. We just had to execute.”

Northwestern quarterback Finley Polk, who had 195 passing yards during the first two quarters, kept up with a 73-yard touchdown strike to Jayden Burris. But South kept the lead after the point-after kick was missed.

The teams matched touchdowns again. After Sellers threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Jayden Sellers, the Trojans’ Zilon Arnold scored from the 1.

Leading 14-13, South Florence then began to distance itself with a 39-yard touchdown strike from LaNorris Sellers to Jayden Sellers. The Trojans’ ensuing drive resulted in a punt that was downed at the South 15. After a penalty backed the Bruins to their 7, LaNorris Sellers took back over.

LaNorris Sellers rumbled 67 yards down the left sideline to the Trojan 26, and Shikeem Shilow ran it into the end zone for a 28-13 advantage.

Northwestern, ranked third in the state, got back into the game with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Polk to Elijah Caldwell and then forced a Bruin punt. But South’s Quincy Rhodes Jr., who took over at quarterback in late September 2021 after LaNorris Sellers was lost for that season, intercepted a pass that went off a Trojan reciever’s hands.

After Rhodes returned it 47 yards to the Trojan 17. LaNorris Sellers finished that with a 7-yard TD run to give his team a 35-20 halftime advantage.

“When we need a guy to make a play, he’s the guy,” said Shilow, who finished Saturday’s game with 131 yards and two TDs. “He’s the truth. He’ll get it, no matter what.”

Caldwell, however, raced the opening kickoff 82 yards into the end zone to narrow the Bruins’ lead to 35-27. After South was ruled short on a fourth-down run inside the Trojan 5, Bruins linebacker Jaylin Davis closed in on Polk while in the end zone and he was penalized for intentional grounding. Therefore, it was a safety and South’s lead grew to 37-27.

Northwestern then kicked a 19-yard field goal early in the fourth to cut South Florence’s lead to 37-30.

Just when it appeared Northwestern might force a South Florence punt, the Bruins called time out facing third and 12 from its own 29. After the Bruins were back on the field, LaNorris Sellers once again found his brother, Jayden, for a 50-yard pass to the Trojan 21.

A couple plays later, as Sellers was being hit, he completed a 7-yard TD pass to Singletary. The point-after kick was missed, however, and the Bruins led 43-30.

Shilow then put the game away with a 6-yard TD run to make it 50-30.

And then, to top things off, LaNorris Sellers found Singletary one more time for a touchdown pass to account for the final score.

For these Bruins, their mission is accomplished. They are Region 6-4A champions.

They are city champions.

They are lower-state champions.

And most significantly, the Bruins are state champions. All that’s left to do is size the players’ and coaches’ fingers for those state championship rings.

“That was actually our goal,” Singletary said. “We wanted to win state; we got it. This feeling is really unreal to me.”

It’s a destiny they knew would happen all along.

NW 6 14 7 3—30

SF 14 21 2 20—57

FIRST QUARTER

SF — Evin Singletary 33 pass from LaNorris Sellers (Grant McDonald kick), 8:38

NW — Jayden Burris 73 pass from Finley Polk (kick failed), 7:36

SF—Jayden Sellers 31 pass from LaNorris Seilers (McDonald kick), 3:36

SECOND QUARTER

NW — Zilon Arnold 1 run (Caleb Rodriguez kick), 11:56

SF — Jayden Sellers 39 pass from LaNorris Sellers (McDonald kick), 8:00

SF — Shikeem Shilow 26 run (McDonald kick), 5:51

NW — Elijah Caldwell 24 pass from Polk (Rodriguez kick), 3:41

SF — LaNorris Sellers 7 run (McDonald kick), :17

THIRD QUARTER

NW — Caldwell 82 kick return (Rodriguez kick), 11:51

SF — Safety (Northwestern QB intentional grounding in end zone), 5:00

FOURTH QUARTER

NW — Rodriguez 19 FG, 11:20

SF — Singletary 7 pass from LaNorris Sellers (kick failed), 8:17

SF — Shilow 6 run (McDonald kick), 3:04

SF — Singletary 33 pass from LaNorris Sellers (McDonald kick), 1:04

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING — NW: Richard 16-56, Hopkins 2-36, Arnold 4-8, Polk 4-8. SF: LaNorris Sellers 26-192, Shikeem Shilow 27-131.

PASSING — NW: Polk 17-28-1-216. SF: LaNorris Sellers 10-14-0-260.

RECEIVING — NW: Burris 1-73, Caldwell 9-63, Logan 2-34, Hopkins 3-33, Richard 2-13. SF: Evin Singletary 5-126, Jayden Sellers 4-122, Juan Fargas 1-12.

RECORDS: NW 13-2, SF 15-0.

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Prep Sports Writer

A 12-time APSE national-award winner (8 writing, 1 video, 3 photography), Scott authored, "70 Years of Thrills and Chills, Drama and Dents at Darlington Raceway." Scott has won 9 1st-place SCPA awards since moving in 2010 from his home state of Georgia.

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