Braves deliver familiar first victory for new coach Illing

New coach, same old Braves.

In Doug Illing’s coaching debut at Socastee, the Braves rode the legs of some familiar names in quarterback Hunter Renfrow and fullback Kyle Smith. They scored three touchdowns apiece, all on the ground, as Socastee steamrolled visiting Carolina Forest in Friday night’s season opener.

Illing brought his pro-set passing philosophy to Socastee’s triple-option attack, and the marriage was supposed to result in a “power spread” offense that incorporate the passing game into playbook. Instead, the Braves ran at will, attempting only one pass while doing all the damage on the ground.

The Panthers led for much of the first half but the Braves had quick answers to every score. After Carolina Forest capped a long drive with a 6-yard touchdown run by Napier Armstrong and a missed PAT, Renfrow busted loose for a 70-yard touchdown scamper on the next play from scrimmage for a 7-6 lead.

The Panthers reclaimed the advantage on a 45-yard bomb from Will Brunson to Kyle Belack. This time the Braves eschewed the quick-strike attack for a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown march that was capped by Kyle Smith’s TD dive that gave the Braves the lead for good in the second quarter.

Socastee’s Sam McKinney picked off a Brunson pass and Smith rambled 59 yards to paydirt on the next play for a 21-13 halftime edge. Carolina Forest had a golden opportunity on the final play of the first half on a Hail Mary pass by Brunson that slipped through receiver Zavier Jones’ fingertips.

The Braves poured it on in the second half, with Smith getting his third score on a 1-yard dive. Armstrong countered with his second TD from the same distance to finish a nice drive and cut the deficit to 28-20.

But Renfrow took over with a 28-yard TD run and, following an interception by Brady Lane, he added a 4-yarder for his hat trick to make it a 41-20 lead early in the fourth quarter. He finished the game with 165 yards on 15 carries. Buck Bacot closed out the scoring with a short TD run for a 48-20 victory.

Socastee welcomes an opponent from north of the Carolina border when West Brunswick visits next Friday.

Photo by Rancier Photography

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