DURHAM — With 1:25 left in the game, Southern Durham saw its lead and season slipping away.
But the Spartans dug deep for one last gasp and produced a game-winning 54-yard drive in the final seconds to defeat Northern Durham 27-23 Friday night. The win clinches a playoff spot for the Spartans, but more importantly keeps them in contention for the PAC-6 conference crown.
Trailing 23-20 after leading by as many as 14, Southern quarterback Kendall Hinton threw a perfect 46-yard strike to Maurice Trowell in the end zone with 39.1 seconds left for what proved to be the game-winner.
A game is never over until the clock says zero, said Southern coach Adrian Jones whose club has won five straight games. We are an explosive team and just had to coach the guys up after they (Northern) came back. We had been trying that play all night and this time it worked.
Durham Hillside can win the title outright with a win at Northern next Friday, but a Northern win would create a three-way tie for the championship. Southerns regular season is finished.
My biggest job is to help the players put this game behind them and get ready for next, Northern coach Gary Merrill said. We shouldnt have lost this game.
After trailing 20-13 heading into the fourth quarter, Northern tied the game on a 17-play, 90-yard drive that culminated in quarterback Brandon Brown finding Kourtney Farrow from 10-yards out with eight minutes left.
With Southerns offense stymied, an invigorated Knights defense held on downs to begin what they thought was the winning drive. This time, starting from its own 9, Northern helped along by a personal foul call on Southern advanced to the Spartans 2 before the drive stalled. Merrill decided to go for the field goal, which was made by Ryan Arundale from the 21.
I wanted to give us the best chance to win and I thought a field goal would do that, he said.
The Spartans built a 14-0 lead in the first quarter when Hinton found Derrick Mason for 14 yards and running back Kameron Johnson bulled in from the 5.
Northern got its first turnover midway the second quarter when defensive back Charah Wheeler intercepted Hinton and returned the ball to the Southern 35. Running back Kylyn Flemming then took charge, carrying the ball on six of the Knights eight plays and sealing the deal with a 1-yard plunge with 4:16 left in the first half. A missed point-after attempt left the score 14-6.
But the Spartans struck right back, taking just five plays to go 62 yards. Cameron zipped around the left sideline and outran the secondary for 37 yards to give his team a 20-6 halftime lead before Northern started its comeback.