Long wait over as Southern reaches final

Dec. 08, 2013 @ 10:51 PM

Southern coach Adrian Jones has waited seven years to get his Spartans to a state football championship game.

But the wait last week leading up to Southern’s 38-10 win over Wilson Hunt was especially long for Jones. With Southern hosting the fourth-round game _ the Eastern Regional championship _ it was the caretaker of the championship and runner-up trophies.

Jones said he had almost all week to look at the trophies and he knew which one he wanted the most.And on Friday night he got the championship trophy.

“They sent us the trophies on Tuesday and I’ve been looking at it the whole time,” Jones said. “I said I didn’t want anything but this regional championship trophy and now we’ve got it.”

Southern’s victory also ensured it of a trip to the 3-AA championship game, the first in school history. The Spartans will take on Shelby Crest on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., at Winston-Salem’s BB&T Field.

Jones and the Spartans had been close to making the championship game before. Southern reached the fourth round of the playoffs in 2007 during Jones’ first season as coach. But they came up short against Wilmington Hoggard in the 4-A division.

There was little doubt about Southern’s march through the playoffs this season, though.

The first three rounds brought rematches against Big Eight Conference foes. The Spartans dominated Chapel Hill in the first round but had closer rematches against Cardinal Gibbons and Orange.

And after three weeks of familiar foes, Southern finally played a team it knew little or nothing about. Jones complimented his coaching staff for developing a game-plan from only what they had seen on video.

“We’ve got a great coaching staff,” Jones said. “They broke down the film and found the weaknesses. I can’t say anything more than they are the best.”

The Spartans (13-2) failed to score at least 30 points only once this season — their season-opening 29-24 loss to Hillside. And in their only other loss, the Spartans accorded themselves well against Scotland County, another 4-A powerhouse, despite falling 53-31.

Southern’s defense also has been rising to the occasion.

The Spartans shut out Hunt in the second half after briefly trailing 10-9 midway through the second quarter. Southern forced four turnovers — two fumbles and two interceptions _ and also blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown in the second half against Hunt.

Southern’s defense also came up with big plays against Orange and Gibbons. Marvin Tillman’s 70-yard interception return for a touchdown against Orange ended up being the difference on the scoreboard in Southern’s third-round 31-24 victory. And against Gibbons in the second round, Southern’s defense held on the final play of the game.

Southern, which has won its last 12 games, will need both units to be at their best on Saturday. The Spartans will face Crest, which earned its spot in the championship game by beating three-time defending 3-AA champion Northern Guilford.