HONEA PATH — Rankings and records didn’t mean a thing to the Daniel defense. It was thinking shutout.
Daniel silenced No. 6 Belton-Honea Path’s running game and made some crucial fourth-down stops to get the job done Friday in a 10-0 road victory.
With all the attention senior running back and Clemson commit Jae’lon Oglesby commands it may be the defense that leads top-ranked Daniel to the Class 3A state title game in December.
“When our defense gets dialed in and focused, they were thinking shutout all week long,” Daniel coach Randy Robinson said.
The Region 1-3A title has run through either Central or Honea Path since 1996.
Daniel (7-0, 4-0 in Region 1-3A), which has won six of the last seven games in the series, has cleared both of its major hurdles after this game and its 66-28 win over Wren last week in its pursuit of a third consecutive region crown.
Emerald will come to town next week before a trip to Walhalla and then a rivalry game with Seneca to conclude the regular season.
In the last two meetings, Daniel’s dominant defense held B-HP to just two field goals. The senior class, which has now won at B-HP twice, set the bar higher this season.
The unit played as if it was behind and needed to get the ball back to the offense as quickly as possible. It dominated B-HP’s senior-laden offensive line, forcing four three-and-outs and holding the team to 70 rushing yards.
Senior linebacker Judah Davis made a stop on fourth-and-1 in the red zone on B-HP’s first possession of the game. Then up 7-0 in the second half, Daniel’s pass rush forced quarterback Dylan Spence into a wild throw to the end zone on fourth down.
“We just had to be physical up front and take on blocks, escape blocks, just play Daniel defense,” Davis said. “We haven’t played our best in a couple of weeks, but tonight we showed up.”
Andy McCall connected with Noah Preisch down the sideline for 45 yards to set up a Jared Dillingham score, putting Daniel up 7-0 right before the end of the first quarter.
The B-HP defense weathered two more trips into its territory during the first half. Caleb Bowie blocked a field goal and Christian Groomes’ second attempt of the half didn’t have the distance.
Oglesby rushed for 181 on 27 carries and set up a Groomes’ 37-yard field goal to put Daniel up two scores in the fourth quarter. On fourth down, backup quarterback Dante Gilliard faced a ton of pressure but broke away to find Oglesby, who high-pointed the ball and came down with it to extend the drive.
B-HP (6-1, 3-1) will continue a tough stretch of games next week when it travels to Seneca before returning home to face Wren.
“I’m real proud of our kids. We were real physical tonight. The ball just didn’t bounce our way,” B-HP coach Russell Blackston said. “ Our kids played their hearts out tonight against a real good football team. We’ve got to overcome it and go.”