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Devils relish comeback, 6-0 start

Devils relish comeback, 6-0 start
Devils relish comeback, 6-0 start

South Fulton head coach Kelly Spivey rallies his troops during a timeout on Friday.
Just when South Fulton thought it couldn’t get much better…
The Red Devils rallied with two fourth-quarter touchdowns to force overtime, then mounted a goal-line stand in a second extra session to stonewall Greenfield and keep their perfect record intact with a thrilling 22-16 triumph over the Yellowjackets Friday night.
SF — easily the surprise team of rural West Tennessee after winning just one game in each of its last two seasons — is now 6-0 for the first time since 1999 and atop the Region 7-1A standings with a perfect 3-0 league mark.
After not winning a region game for two seasons, the Redmen will now play for sole possession of the 7-1A top spot in a showdown with fellow Obion County entry Union City (5-1, 3-0) this week.
Perhaps a victory over the Tornadoes — something the Devils have managed to do just once, in 1922 — or maybe a regional championship would be the only feats to top what South Fulton did against G’field.
Behind 16-0 entering the fourth quarter, SF halved that deficit on a Corbin Hawks’ QB keeper and a similar play on the subsequent two-point conversion in the first minute of the final period.
Then, the gritty Red Devils mounted their only sustained march of the night, driving 76 yards in 14 plays before Jared Fowler fought his way into the endzone from seven yards out with just 1:17 left on the game clock. A Hawks-to-Fowler pass connection on the PAT play completed the comeback and made overtime a necessity.
After both teams failed to score in the first OT, the Devils’ Jonathan Avent provided what was ultimately the game-winning points when he forged his way into the endzone from three yards out.
South Fulton then put an exclamation point on the comeback, the victory and the fact that it is indeed a contender for the regional championship by stuffing the Yellowjackets on two plays from the one to seal the deal and set off a celebration of Big Red fans who rushed the field.
“How could anything be any better?” SF’s toast-of-the-town rookie head coach Kelly Spivey asked while grinning afterward. “Never in my wildest dreams did I envision anything like this. I’m almost speechless.”
Well, not quite.
“I’m so proud of them. They played with so much heart,” the coach continued while turning his attention to and praising the efforts of his upstart club. “It wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t pretty at times, but we somehow got it done.”
Limited to just 48 total yards and two first downs in the entire first half and down 16-0 after Ty Smithson TD passes of 59 yards to Daniel Ricketts and 18 yards to Steven Johnson, the Redmen looked as if their lofty standing coming in was indeed a byproduct of a soft schedule.
SF turned the tables on the ’Jackets over the final two periods, however, controlling the line of scrimmage throughout while holding G’field to but 13 total yards and one first down.
Offensively, though unable to break off the big gainer, the Devils were methodical in moving the ball in small increments and took advantage of three critical penalties against Greenfield — two foolish personal foul flags — to score their first TD.
“You can’t motivate someone who doesn’t want to be motivated and our guys were calm and made some adjustments at halftime,” Spivey said. “We corrected some things and, when we got some momentum going in the fourth quarter, I think being in some close games earlier helped us.”
A pass interference call sandwiched the two Yellowjacket unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and accounted for exactly half of South Fulton’s 68 yards in its first scoring sequence. Skylar Cherry’s 19-yard skip through traffic was the big gainer of the drive before Hawks sneaked in over left guard on the second play of the fourth quarter.
The Devils then forced a quick three-and-out before piecing together an impressive scoring drive that ate up over eight minutes.
Avent ripped off a 34-yard gain to highlight the march, but just as vital were short fourth-down conversions by Cherry and Hawks before Fowler bulled his way to paydirt with just 67 seconds left in regulation. Still needing the two-point play to force overtime, Hawks faked to the fullback and rolled right before finding an all-alone Fowler in the endzone for the conversion that drew the Redmen even.
Both teams came up empty in the first OT, the ’Jackets thwarted when Hawks picked off a Smithson aerial on third down, and SF when a 22-yard Sam Curtis field goal was short and right.
Avent cashed in on the Devils’ second possession, following a seven-yard run by Cherry with a hard-charging effort that reached the endzone from the three.
Greenfield looked as if it would not only match that score, but have a chance at winning after South Fulton failed on its conversion when two Ricketts’ runs gained nine yards combined and left the ball at the one on third down.
Smithson bobbled the center-snap on third down, though, and Ricketts was met be a host of Devil defenders on fourth down on the left side before trying to stretch into the endzone and having possession knocked free with SF’s Jacob Wade recovering at the two.
“Defensively, I thought we handled their physicality all night for the most part,” Spivey added. “They hurt us with some passes in the first half, but I thought we tackled well and stood up to that part of the challenge.”
In all, the Redmen had eight tackles for lost yardage with Avent netting two. Cherry has a ball-hawk all night with nine stops, including a sack, while Hawks had seven hits, a sack and the aforementioned interception. Sam Curtis was in seven stops.
Spivey tossed out his final bouquet to a loud contingent of South Fulton faithful, who constantly kept the faith in the first half while their team struggled.
“I’m so proud of our fans and what they gave our team tonight,” he concluded. “I got chills when I heard all the noise with the caravan that was coming up the road while we were warming up.
“Some people thought it was coming from the Greenfield side because of their homecoming, but I knew it was our folks. And they were a great help.”
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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