DeParis Patterson threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more for South Johnston Friday night.
And the Trojans are going back to the state playoffs.
Their 28-7 victory over long-time rival Smithfield-Selma at Tucker Field gave the Trojans (5-6, 4-1) a share of the Two Rivers 3A Conference championship.
SSS (3-8, 2-3) finished with its best record since 2009.
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“Field position and penalties hurt us in the first half,” said first-year South mentor Hunter Jenks, whose team had three interceptions and recovered two fumbles. “Once we got that straightened out we were in a much better spot offensively.
“DeParis has done a great job all season. He’s charismatic and a great team leader.”
Patterson, a sophomore, completed 10 of 12 passes for 116 yards and rushed for 98 yards on 14 carries. Eric Bowles carried 15 times for 92 yards for South.
“Our defense made a lot of stops and set up the offense to score,” Patterson said. “We had a tough loss last week (31-21 to Cleveland), but we did a good job regrouping.”
Smithfield-Selma finished with just 111 yards total offense, scoring on Robert Hicks’ 90-yard punt return in the closing seconds of the second quarter.
“I wish we had played a little better,” SSS coach David Lawhon said. “We had a few turnovers that really hurt us. I told the guys to leave it all on the field tonight. We had nothing to lose.”
The Trojans led 14-7 at halftime.
South got on the board first with 7:09 left in the first, as Patterson scored from six yards out two plays after the Trojans recovered a fumble at the 15. Yovani Herrera added the kick.
The Trojans doubled their lead with 6:17 remaining in the half, as Patterson hit Tyreekus Reddick from 11 yards out to complete a 10-play, 96-yard drive. Herrera converted again.
SSS halved the lead with 34 seconds left in the half on the 90-yard return from Robert Hicks with Christian Torres adding the kick.
“We worked hard all season to try to get better,” SSS senior lineman Antonio Blake said. “We wanted to reach the playoffs, but we just fell short. We made too many careless mistakes tonight.”
Nobody scored in the third quarter, but the fourth belonged completely to the Trojans.
“Our offense was as good tonight as it’s been all season,” Bowles said. “This win means a lot to all of us and the coaches, too.”
Patterson hit Christopher Beasley from 17 yards out with 5:53 to go to end a nine-play, 58-yard drive with Herrera converting.
And then after Jarrett Jones picked off a Reaquan Smith pass and returned it 46 yards to the Spartans’ nine, Patterson scrambled around right end for the clinching score at 5:22.
“We hope our class will have been part of starting a comeback,” said SSS senior lineman John Gibbons. “I know SSS used to be really good, and we’re trying to bring it back.”