In a season chocked-full of positives, South Stokes couldn’t overcome the Community School of Davidson and took a 29-22 loss in the first round of the state 1A NCHSAA playoffs in Walnut Cove on Friday night.
“We had plenty of opportunities to win the game,” said Saura coach Mike Holmes. “It was the same thing that has plagued us all year. We get behind the sticks with penalties while we are driving the ball and can’t overcome them. It happened again tonight; we beat ourselves.”
The Sauras quickly got behind in the first quarter when the Spartans added two first quarter touchdowns on a 1-yard run for a score and a 61-yard pass from division one prospect Luke Watts.
South Stokes fought back in the second quarter and scored on both possessions of the period when PT Fischer intercepted two passes setting up both scores. When the Spartans were driving and inside the Sauras 10-yard line, he picked it off at the goal line. South drove the ball 93-yards in eight rushing plays by Adam McMillian and Ryan Moses. McMillian scored on a 3-yard run to make the score 15-7.
Fischer’s next interception came on the 20-yard line and he returned it to the 40 giving the home team first-and-ten. The Sauras ran 10 more rushing plays and scored on McMillian’s second touchdown of the evening. Zach Slate ran in the two-point conversion to knot the score at 15 close to the end of the first half.
The Community School of Davidson rallied to end the first half, but the Sauras defense came up big when Lucas Covington sacked Watts for a 13-yard loss forcing the visitors into a 35-yard field goal attempt that went wide left as the clock expired into the half.
The Spartans opened up the second half with an 89-yard kickoff return by Watts to lead 22-15 with only 12 ticks off the clock.
South Stokes used a long sustaining drive on their next possession and ran 14 plays, but it ended with a punt after penalties put the home team too far behind the chains to overcome and get a first down. Two plays after the punt, Watts galloped 81-yards to score and the Spartans took a 29-15 lead at the end of the third quarter.
The defense for the Sauras stiffened in the fourth quarter giving the offense hope of a comeback. Ryan Moses scored from 5-yards out with eight minutes left in the game to make the score 29-22 after the extra point kick by Ivan Caro.
After forcing a punt, the Saura offense was back on the field. They moved to the 32-yard line, but turned the ball over on downs when Moses couldn’t fight his way for a first down. The defense stopped the Spartans giving South the ball back on the 39-yard line. The home team drove to the 20-yard line and had three plays inside one minute left to score, but could never cross the goal line.
South Stokes had 490-yards of offense with McMillian leading the way with 242-yards on 37-carries and two touchdowns. Moses added 134-yards and a touchdown on 25-carries. Watts accounted for 339-yards of the 387 total yards the Spartans acquired.
Steven Fatz led the Sauras defense with 13 tackles, Kaleb Bratton added 11 and Cooper Ross 10. Fischer had two interceptions and six tackles.
South ended their season with a 5-7 record in the 1A Northwest Conference. This year’s senior class played under three head coaches in four years. The 2017 team hosted a playoff game, won its first home game since 2013, their first conference win since 2012, and finished with a winning record in conference play at 3-2, the first since 2012.
“I’m excited for the season we had,” Holmes said. “I think we could have won seven games this year looking back. I know this senior class has been through a lot and have fought the whole way. We wanted to change the culture around here and go into games knowing we can and are expected to win. This senior class helped set that foundation for future Saura teams.”
Robert Money can be reached at 336-749-1193.