SHANE SHOEMAKER – Writer
The Pirates held off the Tigers last Friday 48-7 in their 13th win and head to the next round in the semifinals.
Talking to South Pittsburg head football coach Wes Stone back before the season started, he said the one thing he wanted to put more emphasis on this season was his team being more physical and running the ball more effectively. In last year’s second-round matchup against Gordonsville – a game that neither Stone nor his team had forgotten – the Pirates were held to under 50 yards rushing in a 14-7 loss that ended their hopes of repeating as Class 1A state champions.
“We weren’t able to run the football last year,” Stone said back in July. “We weren’t able to run the football because we weren’t physical enough, we weren’t strong enough. We put a huge emphasis in the offseason on regaining some of that physical toughness that we’d been known for. For years, we were known as a running team. Last year, we could only throw the football effectively. When it really mattered, a team could challenge us, and we couldn’t run the football.”
Last Friday night, a little more than a year after their early playoff exit, it was a much different story, as South Pittsburg routed the Tigers, 48-7. The Pirates (13-0) had no problem running the ball this time either. They ran 35 times for 350 yards and had zero negative yardage, which in turn accounted for 15 of their 20 first downs and five of their seven scores.
The night started off with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Kamden Wellington to AJ Wallace, who was returning after missing the past two games due to a shoulder injury. That was just on the Pirates’ first possession, but wasn’t the end of what would be a 21-0 first quarter.
Jamarion Farrior would score on a two-yard run right at the 1:28 mark, but Wellington would follow him not long after with a run of his own with 35 seconds left in the quarter.
Before the break, the Pirates would score two more times to put in effect the mercy rule. Once on a 35-yard run by JaMychal Buckner, followed by a Wellington passing touchdown to Farrior to give South Pittsburg a 35-0 lead. Wellington, a Mr. Football semifinalist, connected on four of his 11 passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing 13 times for 128 yards and another score.
The Pirates would add two more scores in the second half. Just as the third quarter ended, this year’s Pirate squad already knew they had redeemed last year’s mishap. With locked arms, swaying back and forth in unison on their sideline, they all but signaled their victory.
RaCash Kelly ran for a 5-yard touchdown in the third quarter, while Buckner would earn his second 35-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth. The senior would be the leading rusher on the night, running nine times for 150 yards.
Although it wasn’t the usual shutout the Pirates’ defense has been known to produce this year and throughout the first two games of the playoffs, they still caused three Gordonsville turnovers and held them to just 58 yards of total offense and one score. The one Tigers (8-5) touchdown didn’t occur until 8:07 in the fourth quarter.
The Pirates will now travel to meet Oliver Springs in a rematch from the regular season for the semifinals. In their first matchup in the season opener, South Pittsburg shut out the Bobcats 56-0.
-Photo credits to Cindy Desrosier and Tracy Cagle