Timely offense and some key defensive stops helped power the Darlington and Model/Johnson Mite squads to Unified Football semifinal victories on Tuesday night at the Boys and Girls Club Fields setting the stage for next Monday’s Mites Championship Games.
In the Pee Wee Semifinal games, Pepperell topped Coosa 41-7, while the River Hawks beat Model 26-0 to set up the finals. That game will play on Monday, Oct. 30 at 5:30 p.m. at Riverview Park. The Dragons will be looking to finish off an undefeated season, while the River Hawks will be looking to avenge two earlier season losses to the Dragons.
In the evenings’ first Mite game, Darlington used a strong second half surge to power its ways to a 30-6 win over Coosa.
After the Eagles recovered an onside kick off to open the game, Coosa ran 13 plays milking almost the entire first quarter clock before Darlington’s Maddox Langley recovered an Eagle’s fumble on a long fourth down attempt.
The Tigers used a strong rushing attack with five consecutive runs, moving the ball inside Coosa’s red zone before West Hortman capped the drive with a two-yard touchdown run, giving Darlington a 6-0 lead.
The Tigers managed to recover another fumble on Coosa’s next possession with Sam Horton latching onto the loose ball this time for Darlington.
Just like the previous drive, the Tigers needed five plays to get into the end zone with Pace Knight scoring the touchdown on a three-yard run. Jack Elam converted the extra point to up the Tigers’ lead to 14-0.
Coosa’s Brantly Bryant returned the ensuing kickoff 40 yards, deep into Tigers’ territory giving the Eagles great starting position. A 13-yard pass completion from Coosa quarterback Noah Lambert to Isaac McCain moved the Eagles to the Darlington 15-yard line, but the drive stalled there, and Darlington forced a turnover on downs.
The Tigers went right back to the running game with big runs from both Hortman and Hendrick Cromartie moving the Tigers deep into Coosa territory where Cromartie scored the third touchdown of the second quarter for the Tigers on a 13-yard run. Elam again nailed the extra point, staking the Tigers to a 22-0 lead with 11 seconds remaining before halftime.
The Eagles managed to answer the score, as Lambert aired out a long pass to McCain, and he managed to deftly maneuver past a couple of defenders to reach the end zone and score a 72-yard touchdown, cutting the Tigers’ lead to 22-6 at halftime.
Darlington’s defense forced Coosa to punt on the opening possession of the third quarter and this time Darlington needed eight plays to score with Cromartie rushing 14 yards for the final touchdown of the game and Elam adding the extra point, giving the Tigers a 30-6 lead.
The win moves the Tigers to 9-0 on the season.
In the second game of the evening, Model/Johnson and Pepperell were stuck in a defensive struggle for most of the opening half. Both offenses had some solid moments, but the defenses locked them down until the final seconds of the second quarter.
With under a minute remaining before halftime and with the ball on its own 28-yard line, the Dragons found an answer. After a one-yard run from Derrion Brown, Brown and the Dragons hit pay dirt on the next play.
Brown took the hand off and sprinted down the left side, breaking into the open field and avoiding a late tackle attempt to score an 81-yard touchdown and give the Dragons a 6-0 halftime lead.
Both defenses continued to flex their muscles in the third quarter, as neither offense could get a scoring drive going. Model managed to pin Pepperell deep on a solid punt, and then forced the Dragons to go three and out on offense.
Model took over at the Pepperell 40-yard line and began moving with solid runs from JB Betz, Cannon Lawhorne and Easton Carver before Betz took a handoff, ran to the right side and managed to elude three would-be tacklers on a 15-yard touchdown run. Naishik Das converted the extra point to give Model an 8-6 lead.
Model forced another three and out and then took over at the 50-yard line. Betz and Carver had big first down runs before Lawhorne dashed eight yards up the middle for a touchdown. Das again converted the extra point, staking Model to a 16-6 lead.
The Dragons got good field position on their next drive but Model’s defense refused allow any of the four rushing attempts to gain significant yardage and Pepperell turned the ball over on downs, allowing Model to take a knee, run out the clock and secure their spot in Monday’s championship game.
The wins set up a matchup on Monday at Riverview Park between Darlington and Model/Johnson. The game is set to kickoff at 7:15 p.m. In the squads’ previous meeting on Oct. 2, Darlington won 12-6.
Both championship games will be broadcast live on local radio station WLAQ and on the internet at WLAQ1410.com.