South took its first step to getting back to the state playoffs for the first time since 1971 by defeating North 35-6 Friday night at Carpenter Stadium.
South's DuWayne Kelly and Zack Villarreal combined for 225 rushing yards and three touchdowns and the defense forced five turnovers, leading South to its victory in Class 6A-District 7.
The Titans (4-3, 1-0) can clinch a playoff berth with a victory next week at Campus.
"That's all we talked about was being 1-0 for the next three weeks," South coach Cory Brack said. "We're not talking anything about playoffs, we're just trying to win."
Never miss a local story.
South's offensive plan, running the ball with Kelly and Villarreal, was clear from the start.
Kelly rushed four times on the opening drive, capped off by his 9-yard touchdown run.
South's D.J. Collins took the ball away from Marcus Dukes on North's second possession and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown to put South ahead 14-0.
North's Deonte Gray got the touchdown right back when he caught a 43-yard touchdown on fourth and 10 to pull North within 14-6 in the second quarter.
Gray caught three passes for 76 yards and a touchdown in the first half. It was all the offense North had, and in the second half the Titans had to regroup and force North to be one-dimensional.
"We were getting beat deep, so at halftime we really coached up our kids to take it away and they did a great job of making the adjustment because if not, it was going to be a long night for our defensive backs," Brack said.
On North's (1-6, 0-1)four possessions in the second half, quarterback Grail Brewster went to Gray on every drive. But each drive ended with an interception, including one by Kelly.
"If we could get them one-dimensional we could stop the run," Kelly said. "We took the pass away and all they could do was run, our defense stepped up."
South's defense held North to 37 rushing yards in the second half.
South's offense kept scoring to push its lead.
Kelly led South's attack in the first half, rushing for 88 of his 127 yards. It was Villarreal who led it in the second half, rushing for 79 of his 98 yards.
Villarreal scored on a 34-yard touchdown in the third quarter and scored again with a 4-yard run in the fourth quarter to put South's lead out of reach.
"North is a good team and they have Brewster and White, and if we stop them we would be all right," Brack said. "They made some big plays on us but we really buckled down and stuck it to them and didn't quit."
South began district play with a win last season, but back-to-back losses kept them from the playoffs.
"It feels great, but you can not get big-headed for next week," Villarreal said.
North (1-6, 0-7) 0 6 0 0 — 6 South (4-3, 1-0) 14 7 7 7 — 35
S—Kelly 9 run (Brandon kick)
S—Collins 22 fumble recovery (Brandon kick)
N—Gray 43 pass from Brewster (kick failed)
S—Lassley 9 pass from Villarreal (Brandon kick)
S—Villarreal 34 run (Brandon kick)
S—Villarreal 4 run (Brandon kick)
Rushing—North, Brewster 20-61, White 11-28, Rollins 1-8, Dukes 1-2. South, Kelly 16-127, Villarreal 8-98, Smallwood 2-13, Brandon 2-7, Hickey 2-6, Lassley 1-15, Woodworth 1-0.
Passing—North, Brewster 7-15-163-4, White 1-5-6-0. South, Villarreal 2-5-21-1.
Receiving—North, Gray 5-123, Henderson 1-36, Brewster 1-6, Hayes 1-4. South, Campbell 1-12, Lassley 1-9.