Trailing 6-0 at the half, South Johnston scored 24 unanswered points in the second half to take a 24-6 varsity football Senior Night win over visiting non-conference foe Union Pines to end the regular season Friday.
“We didn’t make any adjustments,” said South Johnston coach Matthew Riggsbee. “We just had to refocus and play harder. And execute. That was it. They came out playing hard and wanting it more than us in the first half. That was all. We got a chance to start over and collect ourselves. We knew what they were doing. We just had to execute.”
Eastern Alamance will host the Trojans in the first round of the NCHSAA 3-A playoffs Friday night in a matchup of 8-3 teams.
Senior Josh Schindler completed 16-of-22 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown and ran for six yards on three carries and junior Jaequan Wells ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries to lead the Trojans offensively.
Senior Jaquain Smith was key performer in all aspects of the game for South. He had four receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown and ran for 18 yards on four carries on offense and had two interceptions on defense.
“If it wasn’t for him, they might have beat us,” Riggsbee said. “He had two interceptions. He made great plays on special teams. He made great plays on offense. He was definitely a life saver out there.”
Riggsbee also cited junior Addison Wood as a key performer on defense, making several crucial stops for South.
“Addison Wood had an outstanding night and I’m super glad he did,” Riggsbee said. “We’ve known he was an athlete. We’ve just been waiting for him to break out of his shell. He’s the only person on the whole team that’s got to practice two positions on the same side of the field. He’s got to learn linebacker and defensive back and he was able to do that.”
Heze Bailey had eight receptions for 88 yards and ran for 10 yards on five carries. Tony Faison ran for 25 yards on four carries. Tony Alston had two receptions for 11 yards. Dylan Lambert was a perfect 3-for-3 kicking extra points and made his lone field goal attempt from 27 yards out.
Riggsbee noted that an appeal of junior Cody Allen’s ejection against Cleveland the week prior had resulted in a reduction to a flagrant foul, meaning that Allen only had to miss Friday’s game and will be allowed to return to action when the playoffs begin next week.
A trio of juniors led the Vikings (5-6) on offense. Rory Board completed 11-of-31 passes for 134 yards, with three interceptions, Tyreek McCoy ran for 95 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries and Casimir Vanburen had three receptions for 65 yards.
Prior to the game, South Johnston and Union Pines agreed to give a special moment to senior Lane Parker. The Trojans offense and Vikings defense lined up to allow Parker to run for a touchdown on his Senior Night.
“Lane is a senior and he has been our team mascot for four years,” Riggsbee said. “He is also in the marching band. He absolutely loves football. And not only does he love football, he loves South Johnston. He is a Trojan more than anybody else at this school. He is a true Trojan. He deserved his moment and he got it.”
The lone touchdown of the first half came late in the first quarter when McCoy scored on a four-yard run. The extra point attempt was no good.
The turning point in the game came on the opening drive of the second half. Keyshawn Sanders made a diving interception to give South the ball near midfield. That led to a 49-yard drive, capped by a three-yard Wells run, with Lambert’s extra point putting the Trojans in front for good.
“Football is a game of momentum,” Riggsbee said. “I kept telling them in the second quarter, ‘We just need one good thing to happen.’ Unfortunately, it didn’t happen until the third quarter, but as soon as that one good thing, that sudden change, happened, we were on fire after that.”
South added 17 more points in the fourth on a 22-yard Wells run early in the quarter, a 25-yard Schindler pass to Smith and a 27-yard Lambert field goal.