Dec 19, 2013
Sure, Southern Durham has a lot of talent. They're fast, they're explosive, and they're strong. And while their physical strength may be high, it does not exceed the strength of the bond between players.
"We preached all year – family," Southern Durham coach Adrian Jones said. "At the beginning of the year I made sure that all the kids got to know each other."
Jones said that bond is what helped the Spartans keep things together in the state championship game, even when they trailed 21-0 in the second quarter. Southern Durham rallied, winning the 3-AA state championship, and earning the Fabulous 15 championship trophy from Tom Suiter this week.
"Coming together and knowing their life, where they come from and stuff, it really bonded them together so there were really no issues on the field," said Jones. "When we stepped on that field we were one big family."
It wasn't just Jones who felt that way this season though. The plays agree.
"These past couple of weeks, I've had a great chemistry with my teammates. They've become like brothers to me," quarterback Kendall Hinton said. "Being able to let our seniors go out with a bang, it means a lot."
"Our team this year, we're a real family. We listen to our coaches, we don't have too many egos, we're a disciplined team, and I think that made a difference," Hinton added.
As is always the case in high school football, there are some seniors on this championship team who won't return next year. Hinton isn't one of them, he's a junior, but wide receiver Derrick Mason is.
"More than half of the team, I had a personal relationship with them. (Wide receiver and NC State recruit) Maurice Trowell and I have played football together since we were about six," said Mason. "It was more than just us being on the football team, we are all friends ... When we got on the football field together, it just made that bond that much stronger."
The Spartans needed that bond last weekend in the state championship game. After Crest jumped out to a 21-0 first half lead, the Spartans scored a touchdown just before halftime to cut the lead to 21-7. They eventually claimed a 24-21 lead at the start of the fourth quarter.
"We knew we had a chance. We knew our average, we put points on the board, we just had to settle down," said Jones. "I think we were a little starstruck. We just had to settle down, make some adjustments and play Southern Durham football."
The players on the team weren't rattled either.
"I tired to stay pretty calm to show my teammates that we should stay calm and keep fighting, and to let them know it's never over," said Hinton.
Mason said the team kept believing.
"Halftime in the locker room they told us, 'We didn't come this far to just give it up.' So when we came back out and everything started rolling," said Mason.
Any state championship is special, but for Jones, this one means a little more. Jones played at Southern Durham from 1989 through 1993, and now as the head coach, he has claimed the school's first football state title.
"It feels very good. A lot of coaches have actually coached at their high schools, but a lot of coaches didn't coach at their high school and become the first person to win a state championship in football," said Jones. "It means a lot. It means a lot for the city and I am going to cherish this for the rest of my life."
Southern Durham finished the season with a 14-2 overall record. They won the Big Eight 3-A Conference title, the 3-AA Eastern Regional Championship, and the 3-AA state title, all earning the Spartans the 2013 Fabulous 15 championship.
1. Southern Durham (14-2)
2. Wake Forest (12-4)
3. Middle Creek (12-3)
4. Knightdale (12-2)
5. Hunt (11-4)
6. Orange (12-2)
7. Millbrook (10-4)
8. Douglas Byrd (11-3)
9. Eastern Wayne (11-3)
10. Garner (10-4)
11. Hillside (9-3)
12. Wakefield (11-2)
13. Pinecrest (11-2)
14. Fike (11-2)
15. Jack Britt (9-4)
Follow Nick Stevens on Twitter @NickStevensHSOT
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