Southern Durham coach Adrian Jones had stopped celebrating the Spartans 3-AA Eastern final title by Sunday, but a trip to the state championship game in Winston-Salem Saturday night still seemed surreal.
An emotional Jones was near tears Friday night after Southern upended Wilson Hunt 38-10 to advance to its first championship appearance.
To be honest, it still hasnt hit me and it probably wont until we arrive in Winston-Salem, said Jones, a former N.C. Central standout defensive back.
Southern (13-2) has won 12 straight games. Its two losses to 4A opponents have some critics asking what if? What if the team was still in the PAC-6 4A Conference. Would it have advanced as far?
But Jones is not interested in any naysayers.
Three-A is just as good as 4-A, he replied. There are some good teams in 3-A, and a state championship is a state championship.
Southern will take on a Shelby Crest team for the first time. The Chargers (14-1) went undefeated in the conference and the only loss was their season-opener to South Point. They
defeated Northern Guilford 23-17 to advance to the title game.
The Chargers are a running team, averaging 267 rushing yards vs. 60 passing yards a game.
They have also thrown 17 interceptions.
Southern has a balance of 267 passing and 247 rushing yards a game. But the biggest playmakers during the playoffs have been on defense.
The Spartans forced six turnovers against Wilson Hunt, and safety Maurice Tillmans 70-yard interception return for a touchdown against Hillsborough Orange two weeks ago broke open a tight game in the fourth quarter.
Our coaches stressed to us all season that hard work pays off, said Tillman who has an interception in the past two games. They pushed us and told us we have the talent to win a championship.
Added Jones: Defense wins championships, thats what weve always said. We have to continue to play our game and not make any mistakes.