LITTLE RIVER-ACADEMY — The Academy Bumblebees didn’t have to look far to find motivation to pick up their first victory of the season. In addition to being winless entering Friday night and playing in front of their homecoming crowd, the Bees remembered Aiden Martin, a 14-year-old Academy Middle School student who died Tuesday from injuries suffered in an all-terrain vehicle accident.
Academy used his memory as fuel in earning a 46-7 win over Florence at John Glover Stadium, despite a 50-minute lightning delay.
The Bees carried Martin’s middle school football jersey to midfield for the coin toss.
“It’s huge for everyone. Getting the win today for Aiden was something we talked about before the game,” said Academy coach Paul Williams, who earned his first win as a head coach. “What better way to show tribute to Aiden and his family than by coming out and executing and putting a win on the board.”
The Bees (1-3) jumped out to a 13-0 lead and led 29-0 at halftime. Academy scored on its first four drives and turned the ball over only once on a fumble in the closing seconds of the first half.
After the weather-delayed halftime break, the Bees’ offense picked up where it left off against the Buffaloes (1-3). Sophomore Jerry Cephus connected with Britt Mauldin on a 21-yard touchdown throw, and Aaron Nichols capitalized on a short field after Bryce Tamez’s interception by scoring on a 10-yard run that pushed Academy’s lead to 43-0 with 2 minutes, 10 seconds left in the third quarter.
Carlos Hernandez kicked a 24-yard field goal to make it 46-0, and Florence’s Jakobi Lewis found the end zone with a 65-yard run that broke the shutout and was the lone blemish on a near perfect night for the Academy community.
“It’s about us getting better,” said Williams, whose team opens District 10-3A-I play next week against Manor New Tech. “It’s about us improving and doing away with mistakes that we continue to make. I saw us moving in that direction tonight and obviously the scoreboard shows that we did some good things tonight.”
Through Academy’s four-game non-district slate, Williams alternated between junior Rian White and Cephus at quarterback. Friday’s game provided one final test for the pair, and Williams said he hopes to go with one passer for district competition.
Neither player made the decision easy.
Cephus completed six of nine passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns, and White finished 4 for 6 for 75 yards and a touchdown. Cephus added 90 yards rushing and White tacked on 47, including an 18-yard touchdown run in the first half. Neither quarterback threw an interception.
“It’s going to come down to a lot of evaluation of film,” Williams said. “They both had superb nights. They both did a lot of good things and both made a few fundamental errors. As we get closer, I’m going to have to pull the trigger on that. Right now, it’s going to be a tough decision.”
Cephus connected with Mauldin on a 39-yard touchdown strike to give Academy a 7-0 lead. White found Jonathan Rouse with a short pass that Rouse took to the end zone for a 31-yard score. Rouse scored again on a 27-yard run, before White ran in from 18 yards out and then converted the 2-point conversion to push Academy’s lead to 29-0 with 5:16 left in the first half.