Patriots advance, Whitewater and Landmark fall
Three locals teams played tonight for a chance to go to the GHSA state championships next weekend. One team made it. Sandy Creek beat Monroe Area 35-0, while Whitewater lost to Gainesville 28-14 and Landmark Christian lost to Prince Avenue 32-22.
The Sandy Creek Patriots routed the Monroe Area Canes 35-0 to clinch their spot in the Dome next week.
This will be the Patriots third trip in four years to the state championship where they have a perfect record of 2-0. But tonight was their last obstacle before the championship.
“It might not have been our best game, but we still won,” said Coach Chip Walker. “The defense played great all night. They were outstanding at shutting them down.”
The defense was lead by senior Corey Griffin and junior Khari Lain. Griffin had four tackles on the night and broke up three passes; Lain had five tackles causing the Canes to lose 20 yards and had one pass break up. Additionally, Lain recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter that he returned 25 yards for a touchdown.
The Patriot defense only let the Canes into the red zone once, but held them scoreless. Similarly in the first quarter they prevented a field goal opportunity through a sack and a Monroe penalty. On another drive the Patriots stripped the ball and recovered it on their own territory.
Cole Garvin was 12 of 16 passing with 202 yards and a touchdown to Demarre Kitt. Kitt had six receptions for 109 yards. He also had two punt returns for a total of 29 yards. The two offensive leaders connected big at the start of the second in a 40-yard bomb that developed from a pump fake by Garvin. This touchdown started the big Patriot offensive during the second quarter where they scored three times.
The ground game struggled for the Patriots thanks to a powerful Monroe defensive line. Sandy Creek still managed to get 143 yards rushing with Eric Swinney leading. Swinney had 51 yards on nine carries and a pair of touchdowns. Delvin Weems had 38 yards and a crucial 8-yard touchdown run on a fourth down play.
There were a few bumps in the road in the Patriots' overall game. Garvin threw two interceptions and the team committed eight penalties costing them 45 yards. As Walker said, it wasn’t their best game, but they still held the Canes scoreless (their second time in this year’s playoff run) in the semifinals and are headed to the Dome for a shot at yet another state championship title.
The win puts Sandy Creek in the AAAA final next Saturday against Ridgeland, which knocked off Marist 28-27.
Whitewater, playing in and hosting their first state semifinal in football, started the game with a fumble on the opening kickoff but responded by forcing Gainesville into a turnover on downs. The Wildcats then went on a long drive that stalled with a missed field goal attempt. Gainesville followed with a two yard touchdown run from quarterback Deshaun Watson. Whitewater didn't do much on their next drive but the defense got Gainesville to fourth down and 14 yards to go on their next drive. The Red Elephants converted and then scored on another two yard touchdown run soon after.
Whitewater didn't give up. On third and 11 on their next drive, Kendall Conley ran 27 yards for a touchdown. The extra point attempt hit the post and the score was 14-6. Gainesville tacked on one more touchdown with a one yard touchdown pass with three seconds left in the half to make it 21-6.
The second half started with another Gainesville touchdown as Michael Byrd ran 55 yards for a touchdown 45 seconds into the third quarter. Whitewater's Joey Renta recovered a fumble and Josh Alexander got an interception in the quarter but the Wildcats didn't score again until the fourth quarter when Jay Ashley connected with Trevor Morgan on a nine yard touchdown pass. Conley then connected with Ashley on a pass for the two point conversion to make it 28-14.
Landmark got touchdowns from Stockton McGuire, Josh Nobles and Jeremiah Kirkland but fell short. Prince Avenue will meet Eagle's Landing Christian Academy next week.
Sandy Creek senior Jacob Renie assisted with this article.