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Wagener-Salley wins first region championship since 1994

Wagener-Salley wins first region championship since 1994

By Kyle Dawson/Aiken Standard

It's been a season full of firsts and "first time since" moments for the Wagener-Salley football team.

It only made sense that the next one of those moments would be a Region 3-A championship.

The War Eagles, the second-ranked Class A team in the state, took control of the game early Thursday and blasted Estill 46-0 for a region-clinching win.

It wasn't just any region-clinching win, though – it's the War Eagles' first league title since 1994.

"It's awesome, man. It's just a culmination of what we've been working for," said War Eagles head coach Willie Fox. "… Just coming here four years ago, just trying to – Wagener's never won. Coming out here tonight… We've done a lot of work to get to this point, and I'm just really proud of our kids for accomplishing something. Just an awesome feeling."

The War Eagles (8-1, 6-0) held Estill to 87 yards of offense, and they held the dangerous Simeon Shiggs in check. He rushed for 60 yards on 17 carries, but didn't break anything beyond 12 yards.

Wagener-Salley quickly took control and removed all hope from the Fighting Gators (1-8, 1-5) by scoring 24 points in the first quarter and taking a 40-0 lead into halftime.

"I felt like last week we didn't really do that," Fox said. "We kind of started slow. I felt like we were sleepwalking through the first quarter. Tonight, we talked before the game about coming out and having a spark and coming to life. They came out with a spark tonight." 

The clock ran almost nonstop in the second half, quickly delivering the War Eagles their region championship. Fox was most proud of his team's intensity in the second half, despite the game being well in hand.

Kevin Jackson scored two first-quarter touchdowns, MyKell Landy rushed for a score and hit Antonio Swedenburg for an 88-yard touchdown, and Nathan Chandler passed for two touchdowns – the latter a 26-yarder to Tristan Nisbet. In all, the War Eagles racked up 449 yards of offense and scored six touchdowns on just 27 plays.

The War Eagles took to the air for their first score of the night, with Chandler dialing up a deep ball to Jackson for a 50-yard score under 2 minutes into the game. That was the warning shot fired signifying that Wagener-Salley meant business.

Estill's ensuing drive produced points, but not for the offense. The Fighting Gators lined up to punt the ball away from deep in their own territory, but the snap was high and into the end zone. It was downed for a safety just 1:28 after the War Eagles' opening touchdown.

They were back in the end zone a little over a minute later, with Jackson sprinting in from the 32 for an 18-0 lead.

Estill was in business on its next possession, with a couple of nice Shiggs runs and a couple of Wagener-Salley offsides penalties putting the ball at the War Eagles' 35. Three plays later, that's where the Fighting Gators were punting from. The ball was booted into the end zone for a touchback.

A holding penalty put Wagener-Salley on its own 12. Landy showed his arm strength with a deep ball down the home sideline for Swedenburg, who made a contested catch and out-raced the defensive back for an 88-yard score. After one quarter, the War Eagles led 24-0.

After a turnover on downs and an Estill punt, Wagener-Salley was right back at it offensively. Quentiz Barnes took a direct snap 48 yards for a touchdown – his previous carry went for 30, and he had 95 yards on just four attempts – that made it 32-0 with 8:56 left in the half. Landy scored on a quarterback keeper with 3:22 left, and it was time for the running clock.

The third quarter came and went quickly without incident – it didn't take much longer than the 12 minutes on the scoreboard. Denzell Kitching intercepted a pass and returned it to the War Eagles' 42 to open the fourth quarter, and they didn't waste time moving to the Estill 26.

Chandler lofted a pass into the corner of the end zone, and Nisbet went up and got it over the defender for the game-capping score.

Wagener-Salley closes out the regular season next week against Hunter-Kinard-Tyler.