Southern's prayer: Rain, rain go away ...

Dec. 13, 2013 @ 08:59 PM

The numbers don’t lie. On paper Southern should roll over Crest in tonight’s 3-AA state title game (7 p.m., Time Warner Cable channel 520).

Problem with paper is it falls apart when it gets wet. And wet it is expected to be when 13-2 East Regional champion Southern meets 14-1 West Regional champion Shelby Crest at Wake Forest University’s BB&T Field in Winston-Salem.

If the forecasters are correct, Southern’s high-octane passing game could get a break. On a day when the temperature is not expected to climb much above 40 degrees, rain is expected to begin falling in the morning and continue throughout the day. At least one forecast predicts the rain to stop just about game time tomorrow.

“Perfect timing,” Southern coach Adrian Jones said late Friday when apprised of the forecast. Jones acknowledged that Crest’s ground-and-pound rushing attack is more suited for a rain game than the Spartans’ quick strike vertical juggernaut.

But Jones said Crest’s edge could be offset in that situation by the fact that BB&T Field features up-to-the-minute artificial turf that drains well and should be in top shape as long as the rains let up at game time.

Southern’s used to playing on a similar surface at Durham County Memorial Stadium.

Crest throws for just 59.9 yards per game and runs for 266.9. It’s no secret that junior quarterback P.J. Brooks (57 of 93 passing, 753 yards, 58 percent completion rate) prefers to run (744 yards, 5.95 per carry). And his top guns on offense are also running backs. Sophomore Tré Harbison, rated a 4-star college prospect, has run for 1,426 yards (7.51 per carry) and senior Jalin Moore adds 1,273 more (6.88 per carry).

Southern has one of the most balanced offenses in the state. The Spartans throw for 261.1 yards a game mostly on the arm of junior quarterback Kendall Hinton (202 for 314 passing for 3,640 yards, 35 TDs, 5 INT, 64.3 percent completion rate). They also run for an average of 238.3 per game, again with Hinton leading the way with 1,136 yards (13.7 yards per carry).

Hinton doesn’t do it alone. Receivers Maurice Trowell (85 catches, 1,562 yards, 18.38 per catch, 17 TDs) is the star, but Derrick Mason (69 catches, 1,197 yards, 17.35 per catch, 13 TDs) is right there with him.

In the backfield, starter William Cameron has run for 819 yards (9.64 per carry), Jordan Brown 709 (8.98 per carry) and Toney Bass 550 (7.14 per carry).

But it all starts with Hinton’s ability to get the ball downfield for those big gainers to Trowell and Mason. By stretching the field, the offense opens up breakaway avenues for speedsters Cameron and Brown and has been known to demoralize opposing defenses.

The Spartans average 46.6 points a game to Crest’s 33.1, but do give up about a touchdown per game more than the Chargers, 23.8 by Southern’s defense to 17.1 for Crest’s.

NOTES — Crest has won 14 straight games since losing its season opener to Belmont South Point. Southern’s only two losses are both to 4-A programs, perennially powerful Hillside and undefeated Scotland County, which is also playing for a state championship today. ... Defensively, Crest has recorded 34 sacks and picked off 17 passes this season. The Chargers will need to keep the pressure on Hinton, but that’s easier said than done. Hinton, who holds scholarship offers from N.C. State and Duke among others, has shown the ability to escape a rush and make defenses pay with his legs.