It's been a frustrating year for the Sumter High School football team, and Friday brought another frustrating finish - in more ways than one.
The Gamecocks needed wins by South Florence, Carolina Forest, Stratford, A.C. Flora and their own victory over Lugoff-Elgin at Memorial Stadium to earn a berth in the 4A state playoffs.
They got every win they needed, save one.
Darius Custard and Zach Connell combined to rush for 430 yards and four touchdowns as the Demons earned the Region VI title with a 41-32 win.
"Lugoff has a very good football team, and we didn't play very well in the first half and that sort of spelled our demise," SHS head coach Paul Sorrells said. "We made a lot of mistakes, stopped ourselves a lot, which has been one of our biggest problems this year."
The biggest problem for the Gamecocks in the first half was stopping the Demons' backfield duo of Custard and Connell. They combined for 302 of LE's 304 yards in the first half and scored all three of the Demons' touchdowns in the first half.
"We didn't do a really good job of reading our keys," Sorrells said. "We didn't feel (it out) right and they did a good job of blocking us. We had some linebackers hurt and some guys in there who didn't have a lot of reps, but give them credit because they have a good team.
We didn't tackle them well in the secondary."
Custard scored on a 64-yard run and again from the 1-yard line in the first quarter. Sumter countered with a 1-yard run from Robert Ross and a 26-yard field goal by Cody Lee as Lugoff held a 14-10 advantage after the first quarter.
Connell scored on a 5-yard run to start the second quarter and Demons placekicker Grayson Quick added two field goals as LE took a 27-10 advantage into the half.
Sumter regained some momentum by taking the second-half kickoff down the field for a score - a 9-yard run by Ross - to pull within 27-16.
But while the defense settled in and kept the Demons off the board in the third quarter, the SHS offense went four and out on its next two possessions and fumbled on its third.
"Seems like every time we have a chance to get back in the game, we do things to shoot ourselves in the foot," Sorrells said. "Whether its penalties or turnovers or whatever, it's just something we've had to work on all year."
Custard added his third touchdown of the night following the Gamecocks' fumble and the Demons then connected on their only pass of the game for a 47-yard score and a 41-16 lead.
The Gamecocks did not go down quietly, however. Kameron Dunnican caught a 13-yard pass from Mic Davis to cut the deficit to 41-24. Sumter then recovered an onside kick and drove down the field for another score, a 13-yard strike from Davis to Shaquille Jones.
"I was really proud of the way our kids kept fighting till the end," Sorrells said. "They could have given up (early in the fourth quarter) but they were still scoring points there at the end. Our primary goal is to win football games, but in the course of doing that, there are other battles to be won, and other things to learn.
"Hopefully, that's something they can take with them into next season."
Custard had 236 yards and three scores for the Demons, who improved to 5-6 overall and 4-1 in the region, while Connell had 194 rushing yards and one TD.
Ross led Sumter, 3-8 and 1-4, with 134 yards rushing. Davis threw for 155 yards and two scores.