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Stallions' rally leads them back to 2A East final

South Columbus QB Pharoah McKever celebrates with teammates and fans after Friday’s win. (Photo by Photo by Mike Spencer)

ELIZABETHTOWN | Visiting South Columbus played a sensational second half Friday night for a 24-14 victory over East Bladen in the Class 2A state football quarterfinals, continuing a pattern of the regular-season loser getting revenge in the postseason.

As a result, the Stallions (12-2) advanced to East Regional final for the second year in a row after beating the Eagles in the third round.

"My hat is off to them; they played their butts off,'' first-year Eagles coach Robbie Priest said. "They were the better team.''

Trailing 14-8 at intermission, South Columbus earned the right to play over Thanksgiving weekend with touchdowns on consecutive series to open the second half.

McKever's 1-yard touchdown sneak less than five minutes into the third quarter, and the ensuing two-point conversion run, gave the Stallions the lead for good at 16-14.

Five minutes later, Dashuan Daniels capped a 75-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown.

McKever had 256 all-purpose yards, including a 20-yard punt return to fuel the second touchdown in the third period. He threw for 195 yards and added three conversion runs.

"Pharoah hit some big passes on third and fourth downs as well as some key runs,'' Stallions coach Jake Fonvielle said. "He kept putting it in the end zone and that is what a leader does.''

Despite the heroics from McKever and Daniels, the Stallions' defense did its part to seal the comeback.

After the Eagles drove into the red zone in the third quarter, the South Columbus defense stuffed the Eagles (9-4) on four straight plays inside the 10.

Then, South Columbus' Reggie Frink chased down Jaylan Herring on a 64-yard run to prevent a third-quarter touchdown; four downs later the Stallions gained possession.

"If he does not make that play, then all of a sudden it is a three-point game and no knows what happens,'' Fonvielle said. "That was the biggest play of the game.''

The Eagles held the upper hand in the first half, limiting the Stallions to only 17 offensive plays. McKever, a two-way senior starter, generated most of South Columbus' offense, throwing for 101 yards and scoring on a 1-yard sneak and conversion with 40 seconds left in the first quarter.

East Bladen, meanwhile, ran 38 plays before intermission, and two resulted in rushing touchdowns. Farrell Murchison scored on a 12-yard run, and quarterback Stan Simms capped a 6 minute, 43 second drive before the break for the six-point lead.

"They had some long drives early and kept the ball out of our hands,'' Fonvielle said. "We missed some open receivers and Pharoah was a little bit off, but a couple of times he was rushed, but we didn't miss them in the second half.''

For the third year in a row, the teams have split two games. Each time the playoff winner has reached the East final.

East Bladen whipped the Stallions 28-6 on Oct. 12 on the way to a three-way tie between the two teams and West Brunswick for the Waccamaw Conference title.

"The difference is they were more aggressive in their play calling than the first time,'' Priest said. "Even though we had some mental lapses, they just took it to us.''