Devils go down in back-and-forth affair

Team still gets to host postseason opener

By Jimmy Kirby
Courier Sports

LIBERTY — Southside Christian scored the go-ahead touchdown with only two minutes remaining against Liberty on Friday night, winning an exciting back-and-forth game for two teams battling it out for a playoff home game by the score of 29-27.

The Red Devils had just taken the lead on the previous possession as Nick Reeves hooked up with Kevon Tabron from 30 yards on fourth down to give the Red Devils a short-lived 27-23 lead and apparent victory, but the scoring strike of 62 yards by Colton Coulter to Connor Fowler sealed the win for the Sabres.

11-9 Page 1B.inddBoth teams finished the regular season with 1-2 region records and a three-way tie with Ninety Six High School. The Red Devils gained second place in the region based on order of tiebreaker rules. Fewest points allowed determined the outcome of the region standings.

Turnovers were a big key to the game, as the Sabres scored 14 points off of two Red Devil miscues. Short scoring drives starting from the Liberty 24- and 37-yard lines put the Red Devil defense in tough situations.

Meanwhile, the Red Devils were only able to turn a single Southside Christian fumble into points with a second-quarter touchdown drive of 49 yards.

The total yards were almost identical, with Southside Christian holding a 19-yard advantage, 286 to 267. The Red Devils led in rushing yardage, 156 to 65, while the Sabres led in passing yardage, 221 to 111 yards.

After a fairly quiet first quarter, the Sabres were first to get on the board with a 38-yard Charlie Paciocco field goal.

Kevon Tabron scored on a two-yard run early in the second quarter to put the Red Devils up 7-3.

11-9 Page 1B.inddJonathan Alexander scored from four yards out to complete a four-play, 24-yard drive to put the Sabres back up 10-7. That was the first Red Devil turnover that led to points for the Sabres.

Doug Tate/Photo
Liberty running back Cavaugio Butler tries to get past a Southside Christian defender during their game Friday night.

The Red Devils took the lead into the half with a seven-play, 72-yard drive. Reeves found Michael Spruill open in the back of the end zone for a 14-10 lead at the break.

Southside Christian took the lead with a touchdown in the third quarter as Coulter found Brayden Bennett for a 17-yard scoring strike.

The Red Devil offense was stagnant in the third quarter and unable to put points on the board.

11-9 Page 1B.inddLiberty came to life just as the quarter ended and started a drive that went into the fourth quarter for the lead once again 20-17. The one-yard scoring run by Tabron capped off a 12-play, 70-yard drive.

Doug Tate/Photo
Liberty running back Shaun Karr prepares for a collision with a Southside Christian defender during their game Friday night.

The Sabres scored two series later after Hudson King picked off a Reeves pass in the right flat and returned it three yards to the Liberty 37-yard line. Coulter completed passes of 16 yards to Jacob Najambadi, 15 yards to Alexander and nine yards to John Taylor for the score on the drive to put the Sabres back in front, 23-20.

The Red Devil defense stood despite losing the starting field position battle. The Sabres’ average starting field position was the midfield stripe, while the Red Devils’ starting field position was their own 29-yard line.

Except for the long scoring toss just over the outstretched hands of the Liberty defense, the Sabres found the going tough on the ground. Aaron Bates had a huge defensive game for the Red Devils in the loss, as he had 15 tackles, two assists, two tackles for loss and one sack.

Cavaugio Butler led the Red Devils on offense with 91 yards on 16 carries. Tabron followed with 42 yards and the two scores. Most of his yardage came out of the wildcat formation, taking the snaps directly from center.

11-9 Page 1B.inddReeves finished with 111 yards passing on 6-of-16, with two touchdowns and two costly interceptions.

Doug Tate/Photo
Liberty’s Ethan Harris takes down a Southside Christian ballcarrier during their game Friday night.

The Red Devils now have a week off as they wait for lower state teams to complete regular-season play following the cancellation of games due to Hurricane Matthew.

Although the brackets have not been finalized, the Red Devils appear to have a home game in the first round of the playoffs on Nov. 18 against the Central High School Eagles from Pageland. This would be a rematch of a 2011 second-round game in which Central won 29-7. The Eagles went on to play for the Class 2A state championship that year, losing 10-0 to Bishop England.