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South Charleston’s Jah’Den Estep catches a pass from Trey Dunn as GW’s Elijah Williams defends.

Despite losing its leader to injury early in the game and being pinned deep in its own territory the majority of the night, South Charleston’s ball-hawking defense repeatedly stole the ball and eventually the game from visiting rival George Washington.

The Black Eagles survived the early loss of All-State defensive end Zeiqui Lawton to a knee injury but forced the Patriots into five turnovers and got enough production from freshman quarterback Trey Dunn and the offense to pick up a season-opening 28-14 home win Thursday night.

South Charleston smothered the George Washington offense, allowing just 162 total yards. GW transfer quarterback R.T. Alexander was harassed all evening by SC, hitting on just 11 of 23 passes for 90 yards with three interceptions, all while being sacked four times. SC had two more sacks on backup Brady Adams.

“I don’t think people realize how many freshmen we played tonight,” SC coach Donnie Mays said. “Those guys are on the field for us in a varsity game and they stepped up.

“I was really pleased with the young guys that stepped up and helped this group.”

George Washington muffed the opening kickoff, allowing South Charleston to take over at the Patriot 21-yard line. Two plays later, Lawton rumbled in from 16 yards out to put SC up 7-0 just 42 seconds into the contest.

That exchange set the tone in a big way as GW couldn’t get out of its own way.

All 18 offensive plays in the second quarter and 32 in the first half for the Patriots were run inside South Charleston territory, yet GW managed just one score on a 7-yard pass from Alexander to Isaac Isabell with 1:17 remaining before halftime.

The Patriots turned the ball over three times in plus territory in that first half, and though Isabell’s score cut SC’s halftime advantage to 14-7, the Patriots left opportunities all over the turf early in the game.

“We weren’t very good at all, we’re not a very good football team right now,” GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. said. “We never did — you can’t let a team with athletes like that [get up early], it’s like pouring kerosene on a fire. They came out and got after us like they were supposed to and we didn’t do what we were supposed to do. I’m really disappointed in this one tonight.”

That late touchdown could’ve been a spark of momentum for GW entering the halftime locker room, but SC erased any notion of that with a methodical eight-play, 52-yard drive to open the third quarter. All eight plays were runs with Caiden Davis, who toted the ball 22 times in Lawton’s absence, scoring his second touchdown from 1 yard out. He finished with 64 rushing yards.

George Washington had one last opportunity on the ensuing possession and was given a gift from South Charleston. Facing third-and-16 from the GW 21, Alexander connected with Alex Mazelon on a 14-yard pass, and a roughing-the-passer call moved the ball all the way to midfield.

But on the next play, Alexander was picked off yet again with Donavin Davis returning the ball down to the GW 45-yard line.

On the next play, Dunn connected with Qwailei Turner on a 45-yard touchdown strike, giving SC control of the game at 28-7.

Dunn was solid in his debut, hitting on 4 of 9 passes for 140 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Turner finished with two catches for 97 yards.

“I think these kids played their butts off,” Mays said. “It kind of went like our practice week went. We were strong Monday, had a hiccup on Tuesday and Wednesday was fantastic — you only have three days to prepare for this.

“Tonight, our secondary, we challenged them and they came out and played football. They were good, they were all over the place.”

Isabell returned a punt 52 yards for a final touchdown with 4:50 left, but after an onside kick attempt failed, George Washington wouldn’t see the ball again.

In the win, the Black Eagles were flagged 13 times for 129 yards. Alexander led GW in rushing as well with 43 carries on 14 attempts.

Mays had no immediate update on Lawton’s injury status.

Contact Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948 or ryan.pritt@wvgazettemail.com. Follow him on Twitter @RPritt.