By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
The message for Southeast Alamance’s football team wasn’t despair when the season ended.
It was more about the possibilities ahead.
The first-year school’s unlikely charge into the third round of the Class 2-A state playoffs came to a close with Thursday night’s 42-7 loss at Clinton, which is the top-seeded team in the East Region.
“I told them,” Southeast coach Tony Aguilar said of the words to his team, “that’s going to be us in two years. That’s what we want to get to.”
That was in reference to Clinton (13-0).
The No. 24 seed Stallions (8-5) had a sense of pride and sadness as they departed the field.
“We had momentum going into the game,” receiver/linebacker Jerry Sims said.
That was dashed quickly on this night. But the impact of setting the foundation wasn’t lost on Southeast.
“Coming in as a new team and winning,” Sims said of the big picture. “Winning as much as we did.”
Tyron Squires, who chose to attend Southeast instead of remaining at Southern Alamance for his senior year amid Alamance-Burlington School System redistricting, said there were positives along the way with the Stallions.
“I think I made a good choice,” Squires said. “We had some good points.”
The Dark Horses, a tradition-rich program, pounced on Southeast even while playing their first game of the season without senior standout Josiah McLaurin, who was out with an injury after compiling 36 touchdowns this year.
So instead, Amaris Williams, a University of Florida recruit, ran 50 yards for a touchdown on the first snap from scrimmage. He ran 43 yards for a touchdown on Clinton’s next possession and followed that with a 5-yard touchdown. All those came within the game’s first four minutes.
“They were big and fast and senior-heavy,” Aguilar said. “We were here to win. They set the tone from the very beginning.”
Squires, a receiver/defensive back, said the Stallions, who committed five turnovers and had a punt blocked, might have been overwhelmed “just playing scared.”
Southeast’s defense had a couple of encouraging plays the next time Clinton had the ball. Drew Easter’s sack of Nydarion Blackwell resulted in a fumble and scramble for the ball that was recovered by the Dark Horses, who then faced second-and-40. That possession ended with Southeast defensive back Daniel Bunker recovering a Williams fumble.
But it was 35-0 by the end of the first quarter. That was before the Stallions recorded a first down.
Southeast’s first two first downs came early in the second quarter on back-to-back roughing-the-passer penalties.
Josiah Robinson ran 74 yards in the second quarter for Clinton’s final touchdown.
A running clock was used in the second half. Southeast scored in the third quarter on a fourth-down gadget play, with Sims throwing 26 yards to Antonio Williamson for the touchdown. It was Sims’ only touchdown throw of the season.
But it was far from the only 2023 highlight for the Stallions.
“To do what we’ve done, when the emotions come down from the end of the season, I think we’ll see this was special,” Aguilar said. “I’m proud of these guys and these coaches. We are building something special.”