Southern chasing final gem in milestone season

Dec. 09, 2013 @ 09:30 PM

Timing, it’s often said, is everything.

Like when Southern High School quarterback Kendall Hinton finds wide receiver Maurice Trowell streaking down the field and hits him in stride with the football — that’s timing.

Of course, a lot of that is talent, too. But timing has something to do with it.

And out of all of the years for Southern to play for the whole shebang, the Spartans finally have made it to the big one as the N.C. High School Athletic Association hosts its potentially particularly memorable centennial edition of the state football championships.

The 16 football coaches whose teams have shots at state titles on Friday and Saturday huddled with their assistants and other school representatives during an NCHSAA press conference at N.C. State’s Vaughn Towers on Monday.

“All of you guys are the elite of this state,” N.C. State football coach Dave Doeren told the high school coaches.  “It is special to be the best of the best.”

That includes Southern coach Adrian Jones, who once upon a time played for the school and now as a 39-year-old man gets to march the Spartans into a championship football game for the first time in his alma mater’s history.

“I never would have thought in a million years that I’d be sitting here wearing Southern’s colors and being in the state championship game, but I wouldn’t write it any differently,” Jones said.

That sentiment is not to be interpreted as Jones being surprised that Southern is where it is. Back in August, before the season began — when it was real hot outdoors and the only cold weather was coming out of air conditioners — Jones, without an ounce of hesitancy in his voice, talked in terms of Southern realistically contenting for the 3-AA state title.

To become state champions, Southern must get past the Crest Chargers, a squad from Cleveland County, where football rules.

Cleveland County is located in the western part of the state, between Asheville and Charlotte. It’s where 2-A-title contender Shelby High School is.

Southern (13-2) and Crest (14-1) will compete at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem on Saturday (7p.m., Time Warner Cable 520).

BB&T Field is the home stadium of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

Tickets to the 3-AA title game are $10 at the stadium but can be purchased in advance for $9 at Southern.

The Spartans will be the visiting team, dressed in their road whites.

Doeren told the coaches that what they’ll be a part of this weekend is creating memories that their players won’t forget.

Durham Public Schools athletics director Larry McDonald, at Vaughn Towers supporting Jones, used to be the principal at Southern. He admitted that talking about Southern playing for its first state championship in football sounds like a misstatement.

“It does seem odd, but when you look down the history, Southern high school has always done well athletically,” McDonald said. “This is the first time they’ve made it this far.”

This is Southern’s first run as a 3-A team, and the Spartans already mined a milestone by becoming champs of the inaugural Big Eight Conference, a very strong league that had five teams in the playoffs.

Southern had been on the 4-A level, where longtime Bull City rival Hillside High School won the state championship in 2010, a period not lost on Jones.

“We had a couple of chances to win it,” Jones said. “We didn’t finish.”

The idea now, Jones suggested, is for the Spartans to be in a position to stamp MISSION ACCOMPLISHED on BB&T Field this weekend.