Sat. November 24, 2012 at 12:26 a.m. | By Powell Latimer | StarNews Staff Writer
Southwest Onslow's defense kept the Tigers' rushing attack in check Friday night during their playoff game in Warsaw. (Photo by Chuck Beckley/The (Jacksonville) Daily News)
WARSAW | Southwest Onslow stuffed James Kenan and romped into the class 1AA football championship game on Friday night, beating the Tigers 35-13.
Southwest Onslow's defense smothered the Tigers' rushing attack and Southwest quarterback Shak Pershey gashed James Kenan for 110 yards and three touchdowns.
"We thought we could match up with them up front," Southwest Onslow coach Phil Padgett said. "We thought we could get them to do some things they didn't like to do."
James Kenan's running attack had piled up yards this season, but was unable to gain traction against Southwest Onslow. The Tigers ran for only 49 yards in the first half and just 176 in the game.
By comparison, Southwest Onslow had 191 yards rushing in the first half alone.
"They beat us up front, James Kenan coach Ken Avent, Jr., said. "And that's where we've beaten people all year long."
The Tigers did throw the first punch. They opened the scoring with a 51-yard touchdown pass and recovered the ensuing onside kick.
"We knew we'd have to make a few plays to beat them," Avent said. "So we tried to do a few special things."
But Southwest Onslow responded and never let the Tigers get back up. The Stallions reeled off 21 straight points and led 21-7 at halftime. Pershey, a senior, scampered for a 41-yard touchdown to put Southwest Onslow ahead.
"I turned him loose in the playoffs," Padgett said. "And he showed I should have turned him loose long before."
Pershey's versatility and strength gave Southwest one too many options for the James Kenan defense to handle.
In the second half, Southwest shut the door. A touchdown to open the quarter made it 28-7, and when James Kenan tried to throw on the next possession, Southwest Onslow returned an interception for a touchdown. Avent said the interception for touchdown was particularly deflating.
And the Stallion defensive line stonewalled James Kenan's rushing attack. In every game but one this season, James Kenan had run for a touchdown from at least 30 yards out. On Friday, James Kenan's longest run was for 17 yards, and only came late in the fourth quarter.
"Our defense has played lights out all year," Padgett said. "And they played their guts out tonight."
Avent said that despite the loss, his roster is full of juniors and sophomores and there is plenty of talent coming back.
"We've got a good group of guys," Avent said. "We probably overachieved a bit this year, but we're happy to win a conference title and get to the fourth round."
Powell Latimer: 343-2261
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