FIREWORKS VS. FOOTWORK

Dec. 11, 2013 @ 08:42 PM

Southern lights up scoreboards as if they were Christmas trees.

Hanging points on teams never was a concern for Southern, favored in the preseason to make a deep run in the 3-AA playoffs.

The knock on the Spartans, though, was that they’d be in trouble if they really needed to stop somebody.

“Nobody doubted us, but a lot of people talked about the defense giving up too many points,” Southern coach Adrian Jones said. “But we knew as a coaching staff that we had a good defense. We just had to make sure those pieces of the puzzle were together at the right time, and now we’re jelling.”

The thing with Southern is that the Spartans could give up a bunch of points in shootouts but still win because Jones, quite frankly, has so many weapons.

Crest coach Mark Barnes knows all about the heavy artillery that Jones is working with and said his Chargers cannot get into trading points with the Spartans and expect to win Saturday’s state title game at Wake Forest University’s BB&T Field in Winston-Salem (7 p.m., Time Warner Cable channel 520).

“Our goal (Saturday) night is to, quite simply — we don’t want to be involved in a shootout,” Barnes said. “We want to limit their number of snaps offensively because they are so explosive offensively.

“If they get us involved in a shootout, that’s going to be an advantage to them.”

Southern quarterback Kendall Hinton leads the Spartans with 1,136 rushing yards, and he’s thrown for 3,640 yards, 1,562 to N.C. State recruit Maurice Trowell and another 1,197 going to good-hands man Derrick Mason.

Hinton, a junior, has scholarship offers from Duke, N.C. State and East Carolina.

“Very few dual-threat quarterbacks throw it as well as he throws it,” Barnes said.

Of course, Crest quarterback P.J. Brooks has a nice arm, too — he just doesn’t use it much, Barnes said.

“We don’t pass, but sometimes ‘don’t pass’ and ‘can’t pass’ aren’t the same. ‘Can’t pass’ means you don’t have the ability to do it,” Barnes said.

The long and short of what Barnes expressed is Crest is going to run the dickens out of the ball. Period.

“They’re a smash-mouth football team,” Jones said. “They’re going to run the ball. There’re no ifs, ands or buts about it — they’re going to run the ball.”

Crest running back Tré Harbison, a sophomore, has generated 1,426 rushing yards this season. He’s complimented by the offensive player of the year in South Mountain Athletic Conference, Jalin Moore, a senior who has 1,273 rushing yards.

Harbison (5-11, 205) is rated a 4-star recruit on a 0 to 5 scale by Scout.com and reportedly holds a scholarship offer from North Carolina.

During an era in the game of football that’s about spreading the field and airing it out, Crest is averaging just 59.9 passing yards per game. Barnes is content with lining up his Chargers in a two-back gun formation and cranking out a healthy 266.9 yards per game.

“We’re more of an old-timey offensive football team,” Barnes said. “We’re going to run the ball and control the clock, and we’re going to be physical with the ball and we’re going to shorten the game and try to eliminate the number of times you get it. We still believe the best defense is a ground-control offense. Some of that is by my philosophy, but most of it is because that’s what our players really lend us to do right now.”

Brooks completed some critical throws last Friday that helped the Chargers get past Northern Guilford, so he’s not just a game manager, Barnes said. It’s just that Brooks very nicely adds another dimension to what Crest wants to do on the ground.

“He’s an athlete,” Barnes said about Brooks. “He’s going to make plays with his feet.”

Southern defensive coordinator Darius Robinson will have something for all of that running Crest wants to bring to the field, Jones said.

— Tickets for Saturday’s Southern-Crest 3-AA championship game are $10 at BB&T Field but can be purchased in advance for $9 at Southern High School.

— The 7 p.m. game will be televised on Time Warner Cable 520.

— Southern will be the visiting team, dressed in its road white uniforms.