Dec 7, 2013
DURHAM — The Southern Durham Spartans are heading to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3AA state championship, and they made a statement to punch their ticket.
Behind explosive offensive production in the second quarter and a defense that held Hunt in check all night, the Spartans defeated the Warriors 38-10 at home Friday night in the 3AA eastern regional to advance to the state title game.
"We knew we had a good team," Southern coach Adrian Jones said after the game. "We had a lot of doubters, but we proved a lot of people wrong tonight."
As they have done all season, Southern starting quarterback Kendall Hinton and his arsenal of offensive weapons broke onto the scoreboard in a hurry. Three minutes into the game, on the team's first drive, Hinton found wide receiver Derrick Mason open in the endzone for a 17-yard scoring strike to make the score 7-0.
When Hunt's first possession stalled early, the Warriors were forced to punt from their own 23 yard-line. The snap sailed over sophomore punter Anthony Gaetano's head and into the endzone. Gaetano fell on the ball in the endzone to avoid a Southern touchdown and the Spartans were awarded the safety to extend their lead to 9-0.
"We got out and put points on the board and I think that was a big deal," said Hinton, who accounted for four total touchdowns in the game. "The momentum we gained in the first quarter made a big difference."
For the remainder of the first quarter, the Hunt defense regained its focus and held the Spartans scoreless. Early in the second quarter, the Warrior offense followed suit. Quarterback Jacob Williamson threw deep to Malik Williams for a 56-yard gain to finally cross into Southern territory and open up an opportunity for points. Brian Orellano capitalized on the chance with a 23-yard field goal to bring Hunt within 9-3.
After forcing Southern to punt again, the Hunt duo of Williamson to Williams worked magic one more time for the Warriors as the two connected for a 29-yard touchdown to give Hunt the 10-9 lead with three minutes to play in the half.
That would be the team's only lead in the game. Minutes later, thanks to multiple facemask and false start calls on Hunt, the Spartans found themselves on to attempt a 38-yard field goal. The try fell short and Hunt took over, but the Warriors drive stalled and the team suffered another special teams mishap when the snap was fumbled once again on the punt attempt. Southern took over in the red zone, and Hinton immediately found Mason again for a 4-yard score to go up 17-10 headed into halftime.
"It was a momentum changer for us," Jones said. "We said that if we went up we would try to burn a little bit of clock and just play our game and that's what happened."
The second half of the contest belonged entirely to Southern Durham. After a long interception return brought Southern into the redzone again, Hunt took over when Southern elected to attempt a fourth-down play rather than kick a field goal. However, Southern immediately got the ball back when the Warriors fumbled on the first play of their drive.
Southern forced the opponent to pay for mistakes all night, and Hinton added another passing touchdown to his total after the offense took over again, finding N.C. State recruit Maurice Trowell from 13 yards out to make the score 24-10.
The ensuing Hunt drive again went three-and-out, and the team again failed to execute on special teams. The Warrior punt was blocked by a group of Spartans, and junior lineman Tahj Spivey scooped up the ball to score and extend the lead to 31-10. The two Southern touchdowns came within 60 seconds of each other.
"I'm not one to make excuses," said Hunt coach Stevie Hinnant. "You can't blame mistakes on youth, because after game 14, most everybody on the team should be grown up enough not to make those mistakes."
Holding Hunt scoreless through the entire second half, Southern tacked on one more touchdown with seven minutes to play in the game when Hinton got in the endzone himself on a 1-yard quarterback sneak play. Southern ran the clock down when they gained possession again and watched as the remaining time drained off the scoreboard.
"They've really stepped up big-time, from the beginning of the season to the end of the season," Hinton said of his team's defense. "Offensively, we leaned on the defense and they did a great job."
The night marked Hunt's fourth consecutive loss in the eastern regional championship game.
"You can't play people both ways, give the team what we gave them and expect to do any better than we did tonight," said Hunt coach Stevie Hinnant.
Despite the disappointing consecutive losses, Hinnant said he was proud of the mix of youth and experience on this year's Warrior football team.
"A group of underclassmen took hold of the seniors that were part of those three years previous, and they grew up with them and learned how to play Hunt football the way we do it," he said. "This is a young group, and I think our seniors realize that these young guys grew up and really made us what we are."
The win elevates Southern to its first state championship appearance in school history.
The Spartans will face Shelby Crest High School in the state championship Saturday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. They will play at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem.
Follow Zach Mayo on Twitter at @ZachMayoHSOT
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