T.L. Hanna linebacker Ben Boulware figured he hadn’t been as busy as most of his teammates.
“A lot of these dudes won the state and went deep in the playoffs,” he said. “We didn’t even make the playoffs, so I’m pretty fresh.”
Boulware looked it Saturday, leading a stout South Carolina defensive effort that helped the Sandlappers to a 23-19 victory in the 76th Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas at Gibbs Stadium.
In fact, Boulware, who has committed to Clemson University, played as if he had been released from another era.
“I’m just trying to bring the old-school linebacker back, Butkus and all those old-school dudes,” Boulware said. “I’m trying to bring that back to Clemson and make our defense tougher.”
The 6-foot-1, 226-pound Boulware, who had nine tackles and a pair of takeaways, was named the Sandlappers’ defensive MVP.
South Carolina’s defense was especially stingy in the first half, when North Carolina managed just one first down and 47 yards. The Sandlappers led 9-6 at halftime.
“We came out, and we were prepared,” said Wren defensive tackle D.J. Jones, who had five tackles, including one for loss.
And the Sandlappers were solid again in the fourth quarter. But in the third, University of South Carolina recruit Pharoh Cooper, who led Havelock (N.C.) High to a state title, took command.
“It was a slow start, a lot of three-and-outs in the beginning, but we started to pick up the pace and get some momentum,” Cooper said.
Cooper, who played quarterback for Havelock and was listed as a wide receiver, went into the wildcat and carried seven times for 98 yards in the third quarter, including a 45-yard touchdown run that gave the Tar Heels a 13-9 lead.
North Carolina had 134 yards in the third quarter, 150 in the other three quarters combined.
“We came in knowing they were a running team and wanting to be real physical on defense,” said South Carolina coach Ray Stackley of Stratford. “They made a good adjustment to start the third quarter, but then we adjusted back.”
The Sandlappers’ offense also came alive. Mykal Moody of Conway capped a 13-play, 80-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run a minute into the fourth quarter.
The next time South Carolina had the ball, Hilton Head quarterback Michael Julian threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Keinan Lewis of Belton-Honea Path. The 11-play, 80-yard drive put the Sandlappers on top 23-13 with 3:14 remaining.
South Carolina’s first-half points came on a 2-yard run by Ashley Ridge’s Romello Doctor and a 21-yard field goal by Irmo’s Ben Hinson.
Boulware had a fumble recovery after an interception and subsequent fumble by Goose Creek defensive end Gerald Turner. When Turner had the ball jarred loose, Boulware snagged it out of the air and got his feet down just before falling out of bounds.
“I kind of took his spotlight,” Boulware said. “I kind of feel bad, because Gerald made a great play. Right when he caught it, the dude came in and punched it out, and I happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
Boulware had an interception of his own in the third quarter.
“I had zero picks this year,” he said. “I was dead in the middle of the box (on defense), so it kind of feels good to get one right now.”