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Redmen ‘shut out’ of playoffs

Redmen ‘shut out’ of playoffs
Redmen ‘shut out’ of playoffs

McKenzie’s Max Arnold picks off a pass intended for Alex Gallien during the Red Devils’ defeat on Thursday.
South Fulton head coach Kelly Spivey had a homecoming at his McKenzie alma mater on Thursday.
Unfortunately, the 1989 MHS grad and his Red Devils will not be headed to the postseason “dance” after the No. 10-ranked Rebels blanked SF 41-0.
McKenzie, coming off a 38-35 upset defeat at Lake County in Week 9, held South Fulton to a season-low 43 offensive yards as they racked up 302 yards during the triumph.
With the victory, the Rebels have clinched either second or third place in Region 7-1A with the outcome of tonight’s Union City-Gleason game deciding where last season’s league champions stand overall.
If UC is victorious, McKenzie (8-2, 5-2) will enter the playoffs as the second-place team from the region but, should Gleason pull the upset, the Rebels would fall to third.
On the SF front, the defeat ends the season at a mark of 6-4 — giving the program its first winning season since 2003 — with the Obion Countians just a victory shy of their preseason goal of making the playoffs.
“We ended up just short of our goal this year,” Spivey said after talking with his team at midfield. “Some thought we had lofty expectations of this team, but if you don’t set a goal, you never know what you are capable of. We looked like we could get our goal after we started the season 6-0 and we were ranked 10th in the state, but we hit a wall and lost a lot of our momentum against Union City.
“Still, though, at this point, I’m embarrassed about how we finished the season, but I will be able to feel good about what we accomplished in a week or so when I pop in the DVD of our spring play and then put in some game film from this season and see how well we progressed in some areas.”
The game was the final for a group of 10 seniors and Spivey credited them with “laying the foundation” for the coming years in the post-game huddle.
Though the seniors may have done the groundwork for years to come, there was no solid footing during Thursday’s defeat.
The Red Devils totaled just five first downs with three of those coming by way of penalty in their second shutout loss of the past three weeks. Over that span, SF has been outscored 117-6 and the team’s mental toughness through adversity has been challenged by its coaching staff and some in the community as play has reverted to what it had been in recent years prior to Spivey’s tenure.
“In my opinion, leadership through adversity begins in the weight room,” Spivey commented. “When we came in during the spring, we had to take what we had here and make the best of it.
“I think in the offseason we’ll be able to find out who wants to go all the way for us next year as we crank it up in the weight room a notch or two.”
South Fulton’s struggles to move the football also continued on Thursday as they crossed midfield just three times with just one of those movements the result of the offense.
Twice, Jonathan Avent gave SF good field position as he made kickoff returns of 46 and 65 yards during the loss.
Other than that, the Redmen continued to lay offensive eggs as only one play by the Obion Countians stretched more than 10 yards — an 11-yard run in the first half by Chance Barnes.
Still, the South Fulton faithful remained loyal to their squad as they formed a spirit line to welcome Spivey and his troops back onto the field at halftime, despite being behind 25-0.
Meanwhile, McKenzie thrived with both Quinton Bowden and Jake Johnson carrying in a pair of touchdowns.
On Bowden’s first run to paydirt, he was not even touched as his offensive line parted a 30-yard running lane that was big enough to drive a truck through at the 8:19 mark of the first quarter.
Later in the canto, Austin McKinney connected with Richie Clark for a 37-yard TD toss with 16 seconds remaining to put the Rebels up 12-0.
Both of Jake Johnson’s scores came in the second period as he sliced in from six yards away and dove in from a yard out.
In the third quarter, John Johnson returned the opening kickoff 86 yards to the endzone and Harris Laughrey booted a 35-yard field goal that put the Rebels ahead 35-0.
With the clock running wide open due to the TSSAA’s mercy rule, Bowden tacked on one last score as he crossed the goalline on a 13-yard scamper with 10:24 remaining in the game.
The game was the final outing in a SF football jersey for Drew Greer, Corbin Hawks, Holden McConnell, Skylar Cherry, Alexander McWhirt, Devin Hutchins, Brandt Sisson, Stephen Graves, Dylan Wright and George Garmon.
Sports reporter Kenneth Coker can be contacted by e-mail at kcoker@ucmessenger.com.

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