DURHAM — Southern Durham beat Orange for the second time this season on Friday night, slipping past the Panthers 31-24 in the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3AA football playoffs.
The Spartans have advanced to the 3AA Eastern championship game by beating three straight fellow Big Eight 3A Conference opponents – Chapel Hill, Cardinal Gibbons and Orange – that they had beaten in the regular season.
Southern Durham (12-2) will host Wilson Hunt (11-3), a 20-14 winner over Fayetteville Byrd, next Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“It is a big deal to be able to be able to play at home in the fourth round,” said Southern Durham senior quarterback Kendall Hinton, who ran for one touchdown and threw for 222 yards and one touchdown. “Moving to a new conference and doing this makes it even sweeter as a team.”
Southern Durham (12-2) won the regular-season matchup with Orange in a 55-41 shootout to give the team the conference title. The Spartans jumped out to a 27-0 lead in that game and held off a furious Panthers rally in that game.
This time, it was Orange who made the early statement by going for it on 4th-and-10 from the Southern Durham 35 on its first possession of the game. Quarterback Garrett Cloer slipped away from two defenders and found wide receiver Ky Muller for a 7-0 lead.
“We couldn’t start off slow like we did the first time,” Orange coach Pat Moser said. “Not that we intentionally fell behind 27-0, but they have such good talent. We had to play our game and let our defense step up.”
But the Spartans came right back with an eight-play, 80-yard drive that running back Jordan Brown finished with a 2-yard scamper to tie the game.
Orange retook the lead 10-7 on a Brad Barbee 26-yard field goal with 1 minute, 55 seconds left in the first quarter.
Although the Spartans tied the game again with a 23-yard field goal, though Orange did well to stop Southern Durham at the 1.
The Panthers had a chance to take the lead again after getting the ball at the Southern Durham 38, but Cloer was intercepted with 1:38 left.
Orange senior running back Patrick Pettiford ran the kickoff to open the second half back 88 yards to the Southern Durham 4. He scored on the next play to put the Panthers ahead 17-10.
“I have told my team all season we can’t give up on good teams,” said Southern Durham coach Adrian Jones, who last advanced to the semifinals in his rookie season. “When we get them down, we can’t let up.”
Southern Durham tied the game for the last time with another time-consuming drive – this one needing eight plays to cover 77 yards. West Virginia recruit William Cameron scooted 46 yards for the touchdown with 9:20 left in the third period.
Hinton gave his team its first lead of the game with a touchdown pass to Jordan Brown, who broke several tackles to go 55 yards down the sideline.
Southern Durham’s defense then made its biggest stop of the night on Orange’s next possession, halting the Panthers at the Spartans 30 on 4th-and-1.
“Our defense made big plays in the second half,” said Hinton, who also threw two interceptions. “They helped us (offense) out with a couple of mistakes.”
Cloer took a vicious hit midway the fourth and was replaced by backup sophomore Bryse Wilson. On his first pass attempt, Wilson was intercepted by Marvin Tillman, who returned it 70 yards for a two-touchdown lead.
“They have guys who can come at you from every side,” said Moser, whose two losses this season are to Southern Durham. “It’s just tough to defend.”
But the Panthers didn’t give up. Wilson threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Artrell Stewart with 28.6 seconds left. But the onside kick was recovered by Southern Durham.
The Spartans have won 11 straight games. Their only losses were to 4A powers Durham Hillside and Scotland County.