Football is fun again at Harding.
The Rams’ early season success continued Friday night in their home-opening 35-28 victory over perennial S.C. power Gaffney.
Harding, No. 11 in the Observer’s Sweet 16, kept its unbeaten season intact at 4-0. Harding won the turnover battle, forcing a Gaffney fumble and snagging an interception while not turning the ball over.
“Probably the deciding factor in the game without a doubt,” Rams coach Sam Grenier of playing turnover-free football. “We’ve really taught in the offseason about taking care of the football and not beating ourselves.”
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Running backs Quavaris Crouch, Dekerius Thompson and Reggie Burris were a handful for Gaffney. Throw in Rams quarterback Braheam Murphy, who had two touchdown runs, and Harding amassed 385 yards rushing.
Crouch, a junior who is drawing interest from major Division I colleges, including Michigan, Clemson, South Carolina and N.C. State, led the Rams in rushing with 201 yards on 19 carries and one touchdown. Burris had 110 yards on seven carries, with Thompson finishing with 37 yards on 11 carries and one touchdown.
Gaffney took the lead on a 2-yard run by quarterback Tyshun Sarratt late in the first quarter. Early in the second quarter Harding tied the game on Murphy’s 35-yard touchdown pass to tight end Chris Powe.
After the Indians’ Josh Fair took the ensuing Rams kickoff 95 yards for a score, Harding answered with an eleven-play, 90-yard, five-minute drive. Crouch racked up gains of 20, 14 and 19 yards on the drive before Thompson scored from 7 yards out to give Harding its first lead at 14-13.
After Gaffney tied the score at 28with 4 minutes left, Thompson took the Gaffney kickoff and raced 80 yards to the Indians’ 15. Crouch needed one play with a 15-yard touchdown run to provide the winning points for the Rams.
Three who mattered
Harding RB Quavaris Crouch: Scored the winning touchdown with 3:50 left and rushed for 201 yards.
Harding QB Braheam Murphy: Had two touchdown runs and a 35-yard touchdown pass.
Harding CB Malik Dunlap: Halted Gaffney’s comeback attempt with an interception at the Rams’ 5-yard line with under a minute left.
QUOTE: “Our kids just got something special in them. There’s something special in this stew that’s brewing. Guys are leading the way and I’m just sitting back and enjoying the ride.” - Harding Coach Sam Grenier.
RECORDS: Gaffney (1-2) Harding (4-0, 0-0)
WHAT’S NEXT: Harding will host Sweet 16 No. 2 Mallard Creek next Friday. Gaffney will host Hillcrest (Simpsonville, S.C.).