Until a week ago, Smithfield-Selma football had not seen at least a two-win season since 2009.
And going into Friday night’s Two Rivers 3A Conference tussle with perennial power Triton, the Spartans had not posted two consecutive victories since Oct. 24 and 31 of the 2008 campaign.
That feat came to fruition on Tyler McDougle’s 9-yard scoring burst with 1:02 to play in regulation, lifting the Spartans to a 14-7, come-from-behind victory over the mistake-prone Hawks.
McDougle’s run capped a four-play, 23-yard drive set up when C. J. Turner intercepted an across the field pass by the Hawks’ Tyler wade at the Spartans’ 40-yard line and returned it to the Triton 23.
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Turner’s pick was the third turnover of the night forced by the Spartans, and their second interception.
Smithfield-Selma forced Thompson to fumble the ball away on the Spartans’ two-yard line midway through the second period.
But Smithfield-Selma, usually stymied by bad breaks and untimely turnovers in recent years, benefitted from both during this contest, which saw the Spartans rise to 3-6 overall and 2-1 in the Two Rivers Conference.
“We’ve had two weeks,” said Spartans coach David McLawhorn, “During our loss to Cleveland – about the third quarter – our guys started having everybody’s back.
“That carried over to last Monday and we had good practices carried over Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I guess the family aspect kicked in with a win, and what ever carried over last week carried over again this week.”
Triton, enduring its worst season since 2007 when they were 6-7, slipped to 0-9 overall and 0-3 in the Two Rivers.
Twice Triton touchdowns were called back by penalties - the Hawks had a 68-yard scoring strike from Wade to Jeremy Shaw negated by a holding penalty on its opening drive of the night .
An illegal shift wiped out a six-yard touchdown scamper by Triton’s Juwan Thompson to start the second quarter.
The Spartans continued to benefit defensively on that drive when consecutive plays saw SSS throw Triton runners for losses, and a delay penalty pushed the Hawks back to the 19-yard-line, where R.J. Jackson’s 37-yard field goal attempt sailed well left of the uprights.
Field position helped the Hawks take a 7-0 second quarter lead, however, when Thompson ripped off a seven-yard scoring burst with 2:16 left in the half.
Thompson finished with 72 yards on 12 carries for the Hawks.
Smithfield-Selma came out clicking on all cylinders to open the second half, taking advantage of outstanding field position on its first possession and driving 54 yards in nine plays, alternating carries primarily between McDougle and De’Quan White.
White carried the ball three times for 25 yards on the drive, and White scampered for 20 on three attempts, including a two yard dive that drew the Spartans within 7-6. Christin Torres’ PAT leveled the score.
White ended the night with 63 yards on 13 carries, while McDougle added 60 yards on 12 attempts, Chris Tappin had 32 yards on four carries.
“Hard work,” McLawhorn said. “I think their two penalties and the turnovers and our success the last two weeks come from the hard work we’ve been putting in.
“It definitely a good feeling to have the breaks go our way, instead of them going against us like they have for so long.”