By Taylor Eldridge
There are riots in the streets. Cars are over-turned and burning all along Seneca.
Just kidding, but really it is kind of a big deal that South won tonight and is going to the state playoffs for the first time since 1971.
Now I won’t lie, this was a brutal game to watch. Don’t think either team’s defense was entirely to credit in creating this beautiful state line: Campus 40 plays for 45 yards; South 48 plays for 127 yards. Yuck, yuck and more yuck.
And really, the highlight of the night came after the game when South defensive tackle Jordan Turner called out our own Joanna Chadwick on doubting the Titans. Shame on you Jon, shame on you.
But give South credit, the difference in this game was it took advantage of its opportunities more than Campus. The Titans got the ball in opposing territory four times and scored twice. Campus got the ball in opposing territory three times and scored once. All of the touchdowns came off turnovers from the other team.
The only, and literally only, highlight from the first half came in the first quarter. Campus punted it and South’s Cory Richardson bobbled it and then was hit and fumbled and Campus recovered on the South 15. It took five plays, but eventually Aaron McChesney plowed in for a touchdown with 10:14 left in the 1st quarter.
Here’s what happened next: South turnover on downs; Campus turnover on downs; South punt; Campus punt; South punt; Campus punt; South turnover on downs; Campus takes knee. So Campus led at half with three first downs with negative-2 rushing yards. Awesome.
Second half looked to be the same when South came out and went three-and-out. But then Campus’ sophomore quarterback Lalo Palacio, who replaced Zac Chrisman early in the game, botched the snap and gave South at the Campus 23 and South scored on a 1-yard Zach Villarreal plunge.
Campus went three-and-out again and then South’s T.J. Thomas had a nice punt return to the Campus 9. Big momentum swing to South. Until on the next snap, Villarreal botched the snap and gave Campus the ball. Don’t worry though, three plays later Palacio was intercepted by DuWayne Kelly to give South the ball right back at the Campus 22. Five plays later, South scored on a Kelly 10-yard toss. 12-7 with 3:14 left in the 3rd quarter.
Campus never really threatened to score. It’s final three drives ended like this: interception; turnover on downs; interception. I will say this though, that turnover on downs was somewhat controversial. The ball was at midfield and on fourth down Palacio tried to scramble to the left side, but was brought down by what appeared – appeared – to be his facemask. Apparently, it was just his whole head because it was a no call. The penalty would have given Campus a first down at the South 30 with about 2 minutes to go.
Anyway, enough about the game. Here are some reaction quotes from South players, coach and athletic directors:
Athletic Director Michelle Kuhns
On the t-shirts South was wearing after the game with State Qualifiers on them: “I had the shirts made two days ago. I woke up about 2 in the morning, thinking this is a tradition that for every person or team that has made it to state I always order them a special shirt. I woke up Tuesday and was like, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t have the shirts ready for the football team. So I called my t-shirt guy and had them made. I had them in the trunk before the game and I didn’t want anyone to know. I didn’t want to jinx it. After we did it, I brought them out and it just added to the whole night. As far as believing in the boys, the entire staff at South has been extremely supportive. They’ve been taking care of business. Everyone just believed we could to this since the start of the season.”
On impact of the victory for the school: “As far as the entire athletic program, it’s been great. People are staying out, coming to games. They’re getting excited about our athletic program. Just the excitement throughout the school has been increased two-fold.”
South coach Cory Brack
On the feeling after the game: "Words can't explain it right now. I teared up for those kids, seeing their faces...the relief and the joy that they had. It's just amazing for this program at South High.”
On the work put into the program: “It makes it feel so much better, all those hours you put in with the kids. The meetings. Watching film. It’s a relief. Because you know what you’re doing is working, the kids are buying into it.”
On what the difference was this year: “It’s just the kids. They bought into what we’ve been saying to them as a coaching staff. We’re not letting them get satisfied with anything. We’re on them, holding them accountable. It’s about the kids. These kids are just working their tails off and it’s great to see that. We didn’t play a great game, but Campus came out and played very well.”
On the impact of the victory: “Hopefully it’s a carry-over effect to all the sports in the years to come. The kids see what type of work it takes. It takes a lot of hard work to be successful in the City League and our district. Week-in and week-out.
On the feeling on the last interception: “I was nervous because I wanted him to drop as soon as he got it. Our kids haven’t been in that situation very much. It was just a big relief, you could feel it on everybody. You could see it on the sideline.”
South defensive tackle Jordan Turner
"We have heart. We talk about how strong we have to be, since we're the interior of the defense. That's how it's going to be. Don't expect South to go nowhere."
South defensive back Cory Richardson
On the feeling of the victory: "We worked so hard for this. I think we finally came together and became a family and learned, as a family, together we can do whatever we want to do."
South defensive back Esquaa Williams
On the last interception: "After the first one, I was just thinking to just calm down and don’t get too hype. We still have to make the tackles. We still got to eat. Then I saw it in the air coming to me, calling my name.”
On the impact of the win: "Looks like we turned the City League upside-down.”
3rd Down Conversions123
3rd Down Attempts5510
4th Down Conversions000
4th Down Attempts213
Time Of Possession12:0611:5323:59
3rd Down Conversions202
3rd Down Attempts639
4th Down Conversions000
4th Down Attempts101
Time Of Possession11:5412:0724:01
First playoff team from South since 1971