By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
Southern Alamance’s defense made sure to turn in the biggest momentum shifts Friday night.
The Patriots rode game-altering defensive plays and combined those with their usual ground assault on offense to crank out a 47-21 victory against Fayetteville Sanford in the third round of the Class 3-A state playoffs.
“With the defense getting those turnovers, we were hyping up the offense to go score,” defensive back Myles Darroch said. “I think that really hyped the offense.”
It was a dominant second half that kept the season going for Southern.
“The defense played fabulous,” Patriots acting coach Chris Miller said. “It was by far our best half of the year.”
The third-seeded Patriots (12-1) will go to second-seeded Fayetteville Seventy-First (13-0), a 48-0 winner against Wilson Fike in the third round, for Friday night’s regional semifinal. Fayetteville Seventy-First ended Williams run in the playoffs the previous week, 40-20, in the second round.
In toppling No. 27 seed Fayetteville Sanford (8-5), it all worked out as the Patriots recorded 447 rushing yards.
Running backs Logan Foust and Jackson Parrish both ran for three touchdowns.
Darroch made two interceptions and Bradley Capps had one pick-off for the Southern defense.
“We thought we did pretty much what we wanted to do in the first half,” Miller said. “Second half, we just played our game.”
Darroch’s first interception came after he tipped the ball and lost track of it before securing it and taking off on a return to give the Patriots good field position. His other pick-off – his third of the season – came on a diving catch.
“I think our defense, we’ve learned from our mistakes,” Darroch said. “We’ve learned to have that ‘next play’ (mentality). We’ve made our team stronger.”
Foust gained 186 yards on 24 carries and Parrish racked up 181 yards on 16 attempts.
Fayetteville Sanford went ahead on Kamal Thames’ 60-yard interception return on the final play of the first half. That put the Bulldogs in the lead at 13-12 after trailing 12-0.
It was a similar first-half ending from four weeks earlier at Eastern Alamance. So the Patriots knew how to respond.
To begin the second half, Southern’s defense made a stop. Next, the Patriots produced a 70-yard touchdown drive capped by Foust’s 15-yard run.
The Patriots forced another punt and this time marched 63 yards, with running back Josiah Tysinger scoring from 17 yards out.
Then a trend began with Fayetteville Sanford turnovers that the Patriots made good use of.
In the fourth quarter, Parrish ran 22 yards for a touchdown. Then after Darroch’s second interception set up the Patriots at the Fayetteville Sanford 37, Foust finished the possession with a 1-yard run. Parrish registered the last touchdown on a 1-yard run.
“The defense kept giving us the ball back and we kept scoring,” Miller said. “Any mistake that they made, we scored.”
The Patriots gave up big pass plays late in the second-round game against Jacksonville. They seemed up to this latest challenge, linebacker Kaleb Franklin said.
“I feel like our secondary was going to be called upon a lot more, and they did great,” Franklin said.
Southern’s offense went about its normal business with a three-pronged rushing attack featuring Parrish, Foust and Tysinger. Parrish appeared to be on a mission.
“He was running over people,” Miller said. “He was a beast.”
Southern’s first touchdown came on Parrish’s 33-yard run. Foust’s 4-yard run gave the Patriots their other first-half points.
The Patriots have advanced beyond where last season’s postseason ended with a third-round defeat in Class 4-A.