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Defense, special teams lift GHS to win

Greenville High School senior defensive back A’Darius Bowen returns a fumble during the Tigers’ 34-13 win over Valley High School Friday night at Tiger Stadium. (Advocate Staff/Andy Brown)

Greenville High School senior defensive back A’Darius Bowen returns a fumble during the Tigers’ 34-13 win over Valley High School Friday night at Tiger Stadium. (Advocate Staff/Andy Brown)

It was Greenville High School’s defense and special teams that sparked the Tigers’ 34-13 win over Valley High School Friday night at Tiger Stadium.

The Tigers’ first 10 points of the game came courtesy of the special teams.

Kicker Antonio Alvarez put Greenville (1-0) on the scoreboard midway through the first quarter when he booted a 37-yard field goal to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead. It was the first of two field goals on the night for the senior.

After Greenville’s defense forced a Valley punt, the Tigers’ special teams struck again. This time it was senior punt returner Ja’Quan Lewis lighting up the scoreboard. The 5-foot-9, 157-pound speedster returned the punt 60 yards for a touchdown and a 10-0 Greenville lead.

“Our special teams play was big,” said GHS head coach Josh McLendon, who recorded his first win as the team’s head coach. “The punt return and the field goal early really got us going some. I’m so proud of Alvarez. Two field goals in a game is something I don’t know that’s been done in the history of Greenville High School.”

With 10:54 to play in the second quarter, the Rams sliced Greenville’s lead to three points following a 1-yard touchdown run by senior running back Tyree Darby.

Just when it looked like momentum may have swung to the Rams, Greenville’s offense answered.

On fourth-and-4, junior quarterback Brandon Simmons connected with senior wide receiver Jonathan Powell for a 32-yard touchdown. Greenville led 17-7.

Following a Greenville turnover, Valley once again sliced into the Tigers’ lead when senior quarterback T.J. Lowe hit senior wide receiver Deangelo Dunn for a 77-yard touchdown. The extra point attempt sailed wide and Greenville led 17-13.

It would be the last time the Tiger defense, which recovered two fumbles and forced a turnover on downs, would allow the Rams to score.

“This was a total team effort,” McLendon said. “Our defense is good. They’re going to carry us, but our offense was able to take advantage of opportunities tonight, and our special teams really played well. This was good team win. I couldn’t be more proud of these guys.”

A 15-yard touchdown run by senior running back Skilar Moorer, a 9-yard touchdown pass from Simmons to Powell and a 22-yard field goal from Alvarez capped the scoring for Greenville and helped avenge last season’s season-opening loss to the Rams.

Senior defensive backs A’Darius Bowen and Ja’Quan Smith each recovered a fumble for Greenville.

“This is just the first step of many,” McLendon said. “We have many more to take, but this was a big win.”

The Tigers will be back in action next Friday when they hit the road to take on Booker T. Washington. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.