Southland Academy edges out Taylor County in defensive struggle

Published 12:31 am Saturday, August 19, 2023

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AMERICUS – It was a game in which the offenses struggled for most of the night and it was game in which both defenses made big plays, but thanks to the play of the Southland Academy (SAR) defense and the Raiders’ ball-controlling running attack, on offense, SAR was able to edge out Taylor County 16-8 to open the season at 1-0 on Friday night, August 18, at Harvey Simpson Stadium.

“We played well. We had some adversity and got behind. We had some players get banged up,” SAR Head Coach Rod Murray said. “We had to reach down the whole roster. What a great game. What a great way for Southland to play. The kids did a great job. The coaches got them ready, but it was just great heart the kids played with. That’s all I can say. Determination, leaning on each other, loving one another, that’s what it’s all about and Taylor County has a heck of a football team. They’re good.”

Southland Academy defensive back Mac McMichael makes a tackle along the sidelines.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Throughout the first quarter, neither team’s offense could get anything going, as both defenses were making plays. Early in the second quarter, the Raiders had the ball and were poised to move it across midfield into TC territory, but quarterback Banks Simmons’ pass was intercepted and the Raider defense had to once again stand up against the Vikings offense. Fortunately for SAR, the defense was able to do just that and got the ball back for the offense.

However, just as the offense was ready to mount a scoring drive, Simmons was intercepted again, this time by Kimonni Saunders of TC. This time, the Vikings were able to take advantage, as they moved the ball all the way down to the SAR five-yard line. Then on first and goal from the five, quarterback Cam Lawhorn scored on a quarterback keeper. The Vikings decided to go for two and they got the two-point conversion. With about two minutes left on the clock before halftime, the Raiders tried to make one last scoring drive and they were able to move the ball into TC territory thanks to the hard running of running back Trey Sellers. However, the interception bug bit the Raiders once again, as Simmons was intercepted again by Saunders with 30 seconds left. Both teams would go into the locker at halftime with SAR trailing 8-0.

Southland Academy running back Trey Sellers scored a rushing touchdown in the Raiders’ 16-8 victory over Taylor County.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

The Raiders got the ball to start the second half and they got it in great field position at the TC 44-yard line. Thanks to some hard running by running back Luke Tarrer, the Raiders had the ball at the TC 25. However, a couple of plays later on third and three from the TC 22, Tarrer tried to get the necessary yardage but was stopped for no gain. This forced SAR into a fourth and three situation and they were able to get that yardage thanks to an off sides penalty on the Vikings. One play later, Trey Sellers ran the ball down to the one-yard line and Banks Simmons scored on a quarterback keeper one play later. Thanks to a dead ball personal foul penalty on TC, the Raiders decided to go for two and Simmons was able to score the two-point conversion on a quarterback keeper. The Raiders were back in business, as they had tied the score at 8-8 with 9:04 left in the third quarter.

Southland Academy defensive end Will Godwin (#30) tries to disrupt Taylor County quarterback Cam Lawhorn.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

On the Vikings’ next offensive possession, they were able to move the ball across midfield and into SAR territory thanks to running back Pete Jenkins, who ran the ball down to the Raiders’ 38. However, as they had done throughout the game, the Raider defense stood up again and forced the Vikings to punt.

SAR wasn’t able to get any offense going on its next possession and had to punt the ball back to the Vikings, but once again, the defense of the Raiders showed up again and forced a punting situation for TC with 1:52 left in the third quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Raiders used the running attack of Trey Sellers to move the ball into TC territory, but the drive bogged down and the Raiders had to punt. However, a penalty against the Vikings made it fourth and one instead of fourth and nine and the Raiders were able to get the necessary yardage to continue their drive. A few plays later, the Raiders were able to move the ball down to the TC 19. Then on third down and six from the TC 17, Sellers ran the ball down near the TC 10. This forced a fourth and one situation for SAR, but Sellers was able to get the necessary yardage and would later score a touchdown from nine yards out. The Raiders decided to go for two and succeeded once again, making the score 16-8 in favor of SAR with 3:55 to go in the game.

Southland Academy defensive back Ashton Ray makes a tackle.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Now it was time for the SAR defense to do once again what it had been doing virtually the entire game: Make another defensive stand. However, the Vikings had other ideas and they were able to use their running attack to move the ball down to the SAR 34-yard line. On two occasions, Lawhorn had open receivers and tried to get them the ball, but on both attempts, the receivers were unable to come through with a catch. Nevertheless, on fourth and two from the SAR 26, the Vikings were able to get the necessary yardage to keep their drive alive. However, a holding penalty on TC pushed the ball back to the SAR 31. Once again, the Raider defense would force another fourth and long for TC and the Raiders were able to stop the Vikings on fourth down and got the ball back with 36.5 seconds left. All that was left for the SAR offense to do was to take a knee, which they did. The Raiders came out on top with a hard-earned 16-8 victory.

The Raiders (1-0) will try to extend their record to 2-0 when they travel over to Buena Vista next Friday night to take on the Eagles of Marion County. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.