Southern Nash runs past Eagles, reaches third round for first time since 2009

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Southern Nash’s Zonovan "bam" Knight, right, drives past Eastern Alamance Friday at Southern Nash in Bailey.


Sports Writer

Friday, November 17, 2017

BAILEY —- Zonovan Knight did everything in the first half on Friday night.

While the game was still close, the senior running back bounced rushes to the right and left while discarding defenders through the middle, bursting for runs of 69, 30 and 19 yards in the first 24 minutes alone.

Knight did everything -- except find the end zone.

On this night, a 62-20 home win against Eastern Alamance in the second round of the 3-A playoffs, it was Kendrick Bell’s turn to finish off what Knight started.

In an even more convincing win last week, Knight had the good fortune of being the one to blitz the end zone three different times in the opening half. This time, Bell took the down-and-goal handoffs, scoring his own first half trio -- two from a yard out and one from six, all set up by runs from Knight.

While Knight’s final line after finally reaching the endzone in the second half was more prolific (230 yards, one touchdown), Bell’s brought the bottom line (111 yards, five touchdowns) in the 42 point victory.

But this gridiron group, Bell said, is an equal opportunity rushing attack. It can be Knight one night, Bell the other, and someone else the next.

“We just know, he might make big plays, I might make big plays, when it comes down to it, we can both finish,” Bell said. “We don’t think of it as someone getting the score. It can be any of us.”

The Firebirds, who avenged a loss to Eastern Alamance in the playoffs from two seasons ago, threw only one time all game, seizing control of the game on the ground after a successful Eagle drive to open the game ended in a missed field goal. Southern Nash followed that error with three straight touchdowns to end the first quarter, eventually taking a 35-12 lead into halftime.

With the win, the Firebirds advance to the third round for the first time since 2009 and will travel to No. 2 seed Havelock next Friday.

For coach Brian Foster, a hump was finally bested on Friday.

“It’s just nice to see all the hard work, not just from this year and the year past, but for 28 years, people have no idea what we’ve tried to do here to change things and change the mentality. It’s not been easy,” Foster said. “To have my guys that played for me here, it’s like a family. We take what we do seriously.”

Playing against a James Madison commit in Eagles quarterback Hayden Mann, the Firebirds neutralized the passing game with a defensive line that consistently doused Mann with pressure.

Ten of his dropbacks ended in scrambles and four times Southern Nash’s line recorded a sack.

The defense as a whole forced four turnovers, none bigger than the one that came late in the second quarter. With Eastern Alamance on the Southern Nash 10-yard line, threatening to pull within two touchdowns, the Firebirds forced a fumble by an Eagles running back that Firebird Quinton Cooley scooped up and ran for a 90-yard touchdown return.

That made the score 35-6, a 14-point swing that turned the rest of the game into a formality.

Behind Bell and Knight’s six combined scores, Kelvin Whitaker and Isiah Walker-Warren also found the end zone on the ground.

But the story on Friday was equally about the defense, which held a team that entered the game averaging more than 40 points per game to 20, with one score coming late in the fourth when the running clock was put into play.

“That quarterback is going to James madison for a reason, he’s an athlete,” Foster said. “But we’ve got some athletes that can make plays.”

Eastern Alamance 0 12 0 8

Southern Nash 21 14 21 6

Scoring plays

First quarter

SN - Kendrick Bell 6 run. (Carlos Garcia kick)

SN - Bell 1 run (Garcia kick)

SN - Kelvin Whitaker 1 run (Garcia kick)

Second quarter

EA - Tre Boseman 1 run (kick fail)

SN - Bell 1 run (kick fail)

SN - Quinton Colley 90 fumble return (Zonovan Knight run)

ES - Boseman 1 run (pass fail)

Third quarter

SN - Knight 6 rush (Garcia kick)

SN - Bell 6 run (Garcia kick)

SN - Bell 1 run (Garcia kick)

Fourth quarter

SN - Isiah Walker-Warren 19 run (kick fail)

EA - Boseman 73 run (pass good)