A Penalty and An Interception Helps the Red Raiders Hang on to an Overtime Win
By: Anthony Perkins
Boiling Springs – Two familiar foes from the former Southwestern 3A Football Conference, Crest and South Point, squared off against each other on Friday night for the right to play in the Western Finals of the NCHSAA 3A playoffs. Earlier in the season South Point squandered a fourth quarter lead and wound up losing to the Chargers by a score of 27-26.
Much like the first meeting between these two juggernauts, South Point jumped on Crest in the first quarter with two touchdowns by fullback Tyson Riley on runs of four-yards and two-yards to capture an early 14-0 lead. However, after the second Red Raider score, the Chargers offense came to life and scored on a two play, 85-yard drive. Fullback Mari Adams covered the entire distance for Crest and capped off the drive with a 37-yard run to pay dirt to cut the South Point lead to 14-6 after a failed point after attempt.
Midway through the second quarter Crest chopped off more of the South Point lead when Adams scored on a one-yard dive play to make the score 14-13. Red Raider kicker Charles Birtwistle added a 34-yard field goal on their next possession to push the South Point lead to 17-13 that they took into the half.
Crest had the first possession of the second half but the South Point defense held and forced a Crest punt from their own 28. The Red Raiders took possession at the South Point 30 and steadily moved the ball down field until the Crest defense dug in and halted the drive inside the red zone forcing a South Point field goal attempt. Birtwistle’s line drive attempt barely cleared the bar but the aim was true for a 20-13 South Point lead they took into the fourth quarter.
Just over a minute into the final quarter fullback Mari Adams tacked on his third score for the evening when he sailed, untouched into the endzone, on a nine-yard carry. Julian Arreola added the point after and the score was knotted at 20-20.
Both teams then traded three and out possessions. South Point was moving the ball effectively on their next possession but trouble came calling when a pitch play went sour and the Chargers recovered a South Point fumble at the Crest 41. The Chargers took less than a minute to cash in on the South Point miscue. On the third play from scrimmage quarterback Nytavious Huskey hit Eli Hall down the right sideline for a 42-yard strike that gave Crest their first lead of the game and with only 4:34 seconds remaining in the contest things looked dim for the visiting Red Raiders.
The Red Raider offense set up for their last possession in regulation at their own 32 after the ensuing kickoff. Unlike the first meeting between these two teams where South Point couldn’t do anything right in the fourth quarter, they executed their “Red-Bone Offense” to perfection. On their final drive they scored on a four-yard run by quarterback Elijah Phiffer to tie the score with only 20 ticks left on the clock.
South Point had the first possession from the ten-yard line in the overtime. On third down Phiffer faked a hand off to Riley, which the Crest defense had been keying on all evening, and Phiffer scored on a four-yard run. Birtwistle added the PAT and the Red Raiders pushed out to a 34-27 lead.
Then the Chargers offense took to the field, once again they were down by a touchdown. The first two plays, both quarterback runs, netted five yards. The Red Raider defense made a big play on third down when Jaquis Rumph tackled Adams for a two-yard loss and it was now fourth and goal from the seven. On fourth down Huskey rolled to his left and hit Brandon McCall in the left rear corner of the end-zone to seemingly tie the score but a holding penalty behind the line of scrimmage brought the ball back out to the twenty-two. Facing a fourth and goal from the 22 Huskey tried another pass into the end-zone but the Red Raider defense snagged the ball to preserve the win for South Point.
After the game Charger head coach Nicholas Eddins said, “I’m proud of my team, we fell behind by 14 early in the game but they came back and made a game out of it. I really would like to have seen a second OT but it wasn’t to be. We were beat by a good team, the things that they do, they do well.”
South Point coach, Adam Hodge said, “I’m just glad we won, we played well on both sides of the ball except for a few glitches and now we get to play one more week. That’s what playoff football is all about, survive and advance.”
For the game, Crest finished up with 220 yards rushing on 41 attempts. Mari Adams was the Crest workhorse in their rushing attack with 188 yards on 31 carries and during the contest he set a new Cleveland County rushing record. Huskey went 4-9-1 in the passing department for fifty-eight yards to give the Chargers a total offensive output of 278 yards. They were penalized six times for 55 yards, they moved the chains 14 times, they had zero fumbles and they had one interception on the final play in overtime for their lone turnover.
South Point had 310 yards rushing on 51 carries. Fullback Tyson Riley had the most carries with 22 for 106 yards. Quarterback Elijah Phiffer went 3-5-1 in the passing attack for an addition 74 yards to push their total offensive output to 384 yards. South Point was penalized twice for ten yards, they moved the chains 19 times, and they lost two of three fumbles and had one interception for a total of three turnovers, all in the second half.
With the win the Red Raiders have a shot at the Western Championship and a right to play for the state title. Next week they will hit the road again and travel to Greensboro to face the Dudley Panthers who defeated Statesville by a score of 20-6.