Dutch Fork “three-peats” as Class 5A state champion
Welcome to high school football immortality, Dutch Fork High School.
The top-ranked Silver Foxes defeated T.L. Hanna 59-20 Friday night at Williams-Brice Stadium to claim a third consecutive Class 5A title. It was the 17th-nationally-ranked team’s 25th consecutive victory and capped a 13-0 season, the program’s second perfect season in three years under head coach Tom Knotts.
Dutch Fork opened the contest with its usual flair. Quarterback Ty Olenchuk found an open Gage Zirke for what initially looked like a 73-yard touchdown, but the pass was nullified for offensive pass interference.
A 78-yard reception by Gage Zirke on the drive set up a 25-yard field goal to put the Silver Foxes on the board.
T.L. Hanna’s running game initially proved difficult for Dutch Fork to contain. The Yellow Jackets rushed for 173 yards in the first half and used it to drive to the Dutch Fork 15.
The 34-yard field goal attempt by Jay Billingsley hit off the left goalpost.
University of South Carolina commit defensive lineman Zacch Pickens quickly made his impact on defense. As Olenchuk dropped back from his own 33, Pickens snagged the pass and scampered 24 yards for the touchdown.
The Silver Foxes answered just its second deficit of the year with a 9-play, 51-yard scoring drive. Olenchuk scored on a 7-yard run to put Dutch Fork up 10-7.
In the second quarter, T.L. Hanna answered with an 11-play, 77-yard scoring drive to regain the lead on J.J. Hudson’s 2-yard run. It only took 27 seconds for Dutch Fork to answer its third deficit of the year when Olenchuk connected with Zirke from 67 yards to make it 17-14.
Isaiah Norris’ 7-yard touchdown run put the Yellow Jackets up 20-17. However, Billingsley’s PAT was blocked by the Silver Foxes.
With 47 left, Dutch Fork’s defense forced T.L. Hanna to punt for the first time. Juan Velarde’s kick from his own 30 was shanked out of bounds at the Yellow Jackets’ 40.
After converting a 4th and 11 pass, Olenchuk found Jalin Hyatt from 23 yards with 5 seconds left to give the Silver Foxes a 24-20 halftime advantage.
T.L. Hanna embarked upon a time-consuming drive which extended into the fourth quarter and reached the Dutch Fork 1. The Silver Foxes forced a fourth and goal when Jamar Walker stopped Norris at the 5 and forced a fumble.
Tyrik McDaniel made the recovery and returned it 93 yards for a touchdown to put Dutch Fork up 38-20.
“We all just bit down,” he said. “We’ve been fighting for this all year, so it was really time for us to bite down. Just to show mind over matter and we all said we had more heart than them. So what we did was we all got together and just buckled down.”
It was the second of five forced fumbles by the Silver Foxes, four in the second half. On the next series, Kendrick Allen sacked Alex Meredith on first down, forced loose the football and Edward Owusu returned it 11 yards for the touchdown.
Dutch Fork’s Lawson Danley forced the third fumble in 87 seconds by T.L. Hanna which was recovered by DiMarco Johnson at the 29. The Silver Foxes were held on fourth down, but a muffed punt recovered at the 9-yard line set up Olenchuk’s second touchdown to Hyatt to make it 52-20.
Owusu forced the Yellow Jackets’ fourth fumble of the second half. It was recovered by Allen at the T.L. Hanna 31 and the Silver Foxes used three plays to set up Hoff’s second touchdown of the game