WHITWELL, Tenn.–Mixed in with the region-based, cross-county rivalry, a full broadcast crew along with loads of media made their way to Vernon Holtcamp field for the first time in a while.
The only problem with the new found attention were some old habits as Whitwell fell 50-24 to the Pirates, continuing a losing streak stretching back to 1991.
“We didn’t make a huge deal out of it, more so than the significance of the game, that is,” Pirates head coach Vic Grider said. “Obviously, we were the only two teams left that had not lost a region game. If we could manage a win, we could kind of seize control of the region, and fortunately for us, we were able to get it done.”
The Pirates had no hesitation out of the gate, scoring a 60-yard gasser by the hands of Dylan McQueen on the second play of the game. South Pittsburg would score two more touchdowns before the end of the first and before an Austin Nunley kick dug into their lead by three.
Up 21-3, any onlooker could barely tell that South Pittsburg was missing four key players to injury, namely junior wide receiver Cade Kennemore
“We did throw it around some,” Grider said. “I don’t know how many catches Jess Morrison had out there. Lajuan Ford had a few catches as well. We don’t feel like Kennemore’s the only guy we can throw the football to. And everybody knows that Hogan Holland can throw it around a little bit, so I thought we executed what we tried to do in the passing game pretty well tonight.”
The Pirates would lead the Tigers 37-3 at the half, riding the back of Sawyer Kelley who dipped in for four touchdowns on the night.
“Sawyer Kelley…continues to be a guy every Friday that steps up and plays the way we think he’s capable of playing,” Grider said. “He doesn’t get a lot credit sometimes, but he’s going to be a guy every Friday that plays a ton of snaps and linebacker for you on defense. Mcqueen had a breakout night as well.”
The second half, though, belonged to the Tigers who outscored South Pittsburg, 21-13.
“Early on, I felt like the stage was too big for us,” Whitwell head coach Tracy Malone said. “With that being said, it was a tale of two halves. We challenged our kids at halftime to come out and win the second half. And we did. One of their scores was an interception by us. We threw it right to them. But I thought we matched their physicality in the second half.”
The Pirates move to 6-1 on the season riding a 6-game win streak going into Region 3-1A foe Lookout Valley. The Tigers head out to Finlay Stadium for a Thursday night matchup with Sale Creek. Both teams have pretty well locked up No. 1 and No. 2 in the region seedings, barring a major upset.
SPHS — 21 | 16 | 7 | 6 || 50
WHS — 3 | 0 | 0 | 21 || 24
1st QTR–Dylan McQueen, 60 Yard Rush [Cagle Kick Good]–South Pittsburg 7, Whitwell 0
1st QTR–Sawyer Kelley, 2-Yard Rush [Cagle Kick Good]–South Pittsburg 14, Whitwell 0
1st QTR–Sawyer Kelley, 3-Yard Rush [Cagle Kick Good]—South Pittsburg 21, Whitwell 0
1st QTR–Austin Nunley, 42-yard Field Goal—South Pittsburg 21, Whitwell 3
2nd QTR–Joseph Lilly, 6-Yard Rush [Lilly 2 Pt. Conv. Good]–South Pittsburg 29, Whitwell 3
2nd QTR–Sawyer Kelley, 7-Yard Rush [Holland 2 Pt. Conv. Good]–South Pittsburg 37, Whitwell 3
3rd QTR–Sawyer Kelley, 36-Yard Interception [Cagle Kick Good]—South Pittsburg 44, Whitwell 3
3rd QTR–Trace Condra, 7-Yard Rush [Nunley Kick Good]–South Pittsburg 44, Whitwell 10
4th QTR–Hudson Petty, 6-Yard Rush [Nunley Kick Good]–South Pittsburg 44, Whitwell 17
4th QTR–Dylan McQueen, 10-Yard Rush [Cagle Kick Good]—South Pittsburg 50, Whitwell 17
4th QTR–Hudson Petty, 3-Yard Rush [Nunley Kick Good]–South Pittsburg 50, Whitwell 24