FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- In front of a large contingent of Byrnes (Duncan, S.C.) fans, Chas Dodd threw for 416 yards and three touchdowns, but that wasn't enough. ESPN RISE FAB 50 No. 2 Byrnes still lost to No. 1 St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) 42-34 in an ESPNU-televised game Friday night.
Even though the two schools are separated by more than 700 miles and a 12-hour drive, more than 2,500 Byrnes fans decked out in blue and white made the trek to support their hometown team.
"They love Byrnes football, and a lot of them flew down here, drove down here," Rebels head coach Chris Miller said. "They're going to support us and [are] always going to be there at all the games that we go to [whether it be in] Ohio or wherever."
Byrnes didn't disappoint with its effort, accumulating more than 500 yards of total offense.
Turnovers proved to be too much for the Rebels to overcome. Three giveaways led to 14 points for Aquinas. Still, Byrnes drew within seven at 28-21 with 10:14 left in the game.
The backbreaker came on the next play, as Lamarcus Joyner took the kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown to push the lead back to 34-21.
"I think they have a great football team, but I think we just made a lot of mistakes," Miller said. "I'm not going to take anything away from them -- I think they're great. That's just the way the ball bounces and that's the way the game goes. You have to make those plays, and we didn't."
Marcus Lattimore rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns in the loss, and Jazz King had two touchdown receptions.
Ultimately, what most Byrnes fans and players will remember instead of the final score is playing in front of 20,000 people and a national-television audience.
"It's an awesome chance to come out and play on this type of stage," Dodd said. "We didn't come out and do what we had to do. We had some turnovers and didn't stop them when we needed to, but it was a great opportunity. Now it's time to go home and win a state championship."
Byrnes (5-1) heads back home to host Spartanburg (Spartanburg, S.C.) next week, and the team remains focused on winning its seventh state title in eight years.
"We knew this was going to be a tough game. Another team beat us, so we know we're not unbeatable," Dodd said. "We can't get a big head -- I think that's what we learned from this game. We just got to keep going the rest of the season and do what we have to do to beat everybody. We will bounce back from this and have a great rest of the season."
Mike Loveday is an editor and covers high school sports for ESPNRISE.com