The first half show by Corinth Holders quarterback Cole Sakowski gave way to the blue collar effort of running back Howard Watson as the Pirates claimed a workmanlike win over Cameron Union Pines, 29-13 in the opening round of the 3A state football playoffs.
Sakowski threw for 230 yards and three touchdowns in the first half as the Pirates overcame some early missed opportunities to eke out a one-score lead at the break. In the second half, Coach Barry Honeycutt’s Pirates didn’t abandon their air game, but they unleashed Watson on the outmanned Vikings. Watson tallied 105 yards on the ground in the second half including the final touchdown of the game.
Though the game ended the way Pirates fans wanted, the picture looked a little bleaker in the first half. Backed up on their own 5 yard line, Union Pines quarterback Ben Bowbliss took a third down snap and ran straight up the middle for a 95-yard score to put Union Pines up 7-0 less than 5 minutes into the game.
Honeycutt credited his players with sticking with the plan after they fell behind early.
“These boys have played an awful lot of varsity football. They know what it takes to win and they knew we could score on them if they just executed,” Honeycutt said.
Corinth Holders answered quickly as Sakowski connected with wide receiver Tony Kirkwood on a 55-yard pass. Jackson Creech’s extra point was no good leaving Union Pines with a 1-point advantage.
Bowbliss smacked the Pirates again late in the first quarter, this time through the air when he found the Vikings’ leading receiver Demarius Hampton from 25 yards out to extend the Union Pines lead to 13-6 with 55 seconds to go in the first period.
No one else scored until the 3:48 mark of the second period when Sakowski struck gold on a beautiful pass to Dymon Walker for 50 yards and another score. Kaelin O’Neal converted a 2-point conversion and the Pirates claimed their first lead of the game at 14-13.
Sakowski hit paydirt again just before the half when he threw a short pass to Steven Adams who ran the ball in for a 35-yard score with 55 seconds to go.
The second half belonged to Watson. The Pirate senior had amassed over 1,400 yards rushing during the regular season, but the Union Pines defense held him to just 25 yards on four carries in the first half.
He ripped off runs of 56 and seven yards on his first two carries and with less than four minutes gone in the third, Watson plunged over from the 2 to give the Pirates a 27-13 lead after the extra point by Creech. Watson finished the game with 130 yards on the night. Corinth closed out the scoring with a safety.
Sakowski closed the night with 283 yards on 13-28 passing.
Corinth Holders, now 9-3 hosts Orange County, a 21-20 winner over Lee County, on Friday.