The Darlington Tigers (2-0) flashed offensive and defensive skill as they pulled away from the St. Francis Knights 41-9 at Chris Hunter Stadium.
“We’re very, very pleased to be 2-0,” Tigers head coach Tommy Atha said. “I thought we made some really explosive plays on both sides of the ball tonight. Way too many mistakes; there’s no question about that. The positive side of that is if we clean that up and get the big chunk plays on the front side, then we can be really explosive offensively.”
Explosive is exactly how Darlington started the night, as junior quarterback Patrick Shelley found plenty of space and sped through the St. Francis defense to the end zone for the Tigers’ first points of the evening.
Shelley finished 8-for-12 passing with one touchdown. He also recorded three rushes for 45 yards and one rushing score.
“I thought Patrick had a really big night,” Atha said. “St. Francis has got some speed on the back end, and that first touchdown, pulling away from those guys, (he) showed a burst. I thought he made good decisions.”
Special teams made their presence felt, as the punt return unit capitalized on a muffed Knights punt deep in their own territory and recovered the ball in the end zone for another score. Darlington led 17-0 at halftime.
“We challenged them,” Atha said regarding halftime. “There were really no adjustments; we just challenged them to be better mentally, to focus, to maintain their blocks, hang on to the football and the defense got us a big stop to start the half.”
Whatever doubt remained about the outcome of the game was quickly extinguished as running back Harrison Allen cruised untouched up the middle of the field for a score to make it 24-0 with 7:03 to play in the third. Just 2:24 later, following a St. Francis punt, Shelley found Thomas Speed on a screen pass down the Darlington sideline and sped all the way to the house. Darlington led 31-0.
“I felt like we had obviously gained the momentum of the second half and we were able to capitalize on that,” Atha said.
Allen, who plays at both running back and linebacker, shined on both sides of the ball, collecting 151 yards on 15 carries and regularly made his presence known around St. Francis quarterback Camden Rusk.
Through two games, Darlington’s defense has held opponents to 16 total points.
“I was tremendously proud of our defense,” Atha said. “All night long they made big plays, ran well to the football.”
Darlington hits the road for the first time this season, traveling to Heard County next Friday, Sept. 25. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.