The Philip Simmons High School football team, like most new programs, suffered growing pains in its first two seasons, taking some lumps along the way while learning some lessons in hard knocks.
Now, in Season 3, it seems like the Iron Horses are growing in the right direction.
The Iron Horses dismantled Lake Marion 43-8 in a Region 6-AA clash that was contested in Santee. For the first time in the program’s brief history, coach Eric Bendig’s squad begins the season with a 2-0 record. And, if you are a Philip Simmons fan keeping a record book at home, the 35-point victory was the Iron Horses’ largest margin of victory in history.
“Just this season alone, the progress has been remarkable, said Bendig, whose team has won five of its last six games. “The way the kids prepared in the weight room and on the practice field, there is a different speed and vibe. The kids feel more comfortable.
“It’s a big effort, a conglomerate,” Bendig added. “I feel like we have started to maximize our potential. I’ve always had faith in the team. But expecting to win (as a team) is something you have to grow into.”
The Iron Horses, who have outscored foes 82-16 in 2020, face their biggest challenge of the young season when the Woodland Wolverines come to town this weekend. The Wolverines are coming off a 56-0 loss to non-conference No. 1 team in Class AA, Abbeville, but should contend for the Region 6-AA championship.
“This is a game, when I looked at the schedule in the offseason, is one that stood out,” Bendig said. “If you want any shot at the (region) championship, Woodland is a team you have to beat.”
The Iron Horses made the most of their 324 yards in total offense by controlling the line of scrimmage. Quarterback Tripp Williams completed only 8 of 19 passing for 86 yards and two scores, but the running game flourished with 6.4 yards per carry.
Peyton Woolridge was the workhorse with 24 carries for 133 yards and two scores. Sharod Williams rushed for 63 yards and a TD on five carries. He ripped off a 30-yard run, the Iron Horses’ longest play from scrimmage.
Kicker Griffin Gore had a big night with four PATs and a 30-yard field goal.
Once again, the Iron Horse defense played at a championship level, forcing five turnovers. They have caused eight turnovers in two games.
Tyler Harper logged 16 tackles, including 11 solo stops. He was credited with 2.5 tackles for a loss while forcing a fumble. He has 31 tackles in two games.
Hunter Ramey logged nine tackles while Jackson Jordan, Connor White, William Allen and Isaac Schimpf each picked off a pass. Tyshawn Green recovered a fumble.
“I really like what is happening on that side of the ball,” Bendig said. “We have some youth on defense, but we have some experience and speed in our secondary. When you can stop a team, that seems to open up things on offense.”