The Darlington Tigers felt more complete Friday night in their first round playoff game against Mount de Sales. And the scoreboard showed it.
After overcoming a slow start, Darlington got on the board with a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter and held off the Mount de Sales Cavaliers of Macon to earn a comfortable 26-3 win at Chris Hunter Stadium.
Darlington running back Tijai Whatley, in his return to the field after being held out with a minor injury last week, led both teams in rushing with 117 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns.
“Well, really the last time Tijai had been on the field was against Christian Heritage, so he’s really coming off a two week almost three-week layoff right there,” Darlington head coach Tommy Atha said of the Georgia Tech commit.
“(I am) tremendously proud of him and what he brings to the table like he did tonight. It’s just a lift when he’s out there on the field. There’s a confidence, and so we were certainly pleased that we had him back out on the field.”
Mount de Sales (6-5) started the game solidly with the Cavaliers’ offense sustaining several drives. However, Mount de Sales managed only three points, making a 26-yard field goal midway through the second quarter.
Darlington settled down towards the end of the first half scoring on a 6-yard touchdown run by Whatley with 1:16 remaining in the half. Mount de Sales running back Adrian Hardwick fumbled the ball on the ensuing drive, and the Tigers capitalized, recovering the ball.
Tiger quarterback Griffin Brewster scored on a designed quarterback run from 17 yards out four plays later and Darlington went up 13-3 after the missed PAT.
The Tigers (7-4) punched it in two more times in the second half, once on a 1-yard rushing touchdown by Whatley and then on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Brewster to Karl Swiger.
The Tigers have no time to rest their laurels after the win, however. Darlington will travel to Aquinas next Friday for the second round of the Class A Private state playoffs.
“Anytime you can get a win in the playoffs, it’s a blessing because those are hard to come by,” Atha said. “We know we’ve got a great opponent next week in Aquinas. They got a bye this week for a reason. They won their region championship last week, and they know this time of year. They are a perennial playoff team and very well-coached. We know we got a big challenge, but we’re excited for the opportunity.”