Southern rides defense to rout of Hunt, state finals berth
Wilson Hunt came into Spartan Stadium hoping to use its ball-control, pro-set offense and experience in three prior consecutive trips to the Eastern Regional championship game to crush Southern’s dream of getting to the state title game. And it worked.
For most of the first quarter, anyhow.
Southern’s swift, swarming and ferocious defense rose up large and in charge to the challenge, forcing fumbles, sacking the quarterback, harassing receivers, blocking a punt for a touchdown, and seemingly intercepting at will in a 38-10 victory and a shot at the 3-AA championship game against
In holding a Warrior team averaging 28.2 points per game to about one-third of its normal output, Southern’s defense said not tonight. Not in our house. Not with an opportunity to make history with the school’s first appearance in a state football final.
“We’ll take it,” said Southern coach Adrian Jones. “Our offense wasn’t as good as it normally is. When the defense wins championships, offense sells tickets.”
The most electrifying defensive play of the night was defensive back Kaleb Barfield’s 98-yard interception return, getting the pick off of Hunt quarterback Jacob Williamson three yards into the end zone and sprinting down the sideline before being tackled at the Hunt 5-yardline.
Kaleb Barfield: “We worked really hard. In practice this week we set the standard. We didn’t want to give up a lot of points. We said we had to hit them hard because we knew they had good running backs. We played a good game.
“The quarterback caught me on the sideline. He knew he got a good effort to try to stop me but I tried my hardest. Next time I’m getting in the box,” Barfield said.
“It was almost unreal. I saw him break on the out and I knew it was coming so I broke on it and I just caught it and I just took off,” Barfield said.
“Before they had gotten the two big catches on my other corner so I knew they were coming at me. So I was just thinking when the play comes I’ve got to step up and make it.”
Josh Manns was among Southern defenders recovering a fumble.
“We played a great game. Just stopping them when they were getting close to scoring was a big thing. So we just kept playing and kept our head in the game and we just came out with the big stops,” Manns said.
“It was great, the first time ever making history so that’s always a good thing,” he said of the team advancing to the state title game.
Linebacker Kameron Johnson stripped the ball that Manns recovered.
“I just saw it. It was an opportunity so I just jumped on the ball,” Manns said.
It was also Johnson who blocked the punt that was returned for a TD by linebacker Tahj Spivey.
“Honestly, this is my very first high school touchdown, and it hasn’t hit me just yet. I think it will hit me when I’m putting it on my highlight tape,” Spivey said.
”It’s not just an individual thing. When we watched film that was one thing we keyed in on, was special teams. And when we all started clicking that’s when plays started being made.”
“I believe…we also stopped them a lot of times from big plays. It was a lot of big runs that could have went in for scores and we stopped those,” he said.
“All I can say is how about that defense,” Jones said. “We’ve got a great coaching staff. We had great defense all year.”
He said plays like Barfield’s runback and Spivey’s blocked punt TD were critical.
“I felt like the tables were turning, that we had a good advantage on them,” Jones said.
“That’s probably as fast as I ever ran,” Jones said of Barfield’s runback. “I was running right beside him there for a few minutes. My hamstrings got a little tight.”