South Warren hangs on for 21-16 victory at Owensboro Catholic
OWENSBORO—For the third consecutive game, the South Warren offense was stymied and struggled to put the 21 points it did on the board.
But that 21 points was just enough.
Senior cornerback Greg Byrd recorded two timely interceptions in the second half, the Spartans’ defense came up with a crucial stop late, and South Warren earned a hard-fought 21-16 victory over the Aces in cold and wet field conditions at Steele Stadium on Friday night.
“Week 10 games always tend to be odd and we certainly had some elements (of weather) tonight,” South Warren coach Brandon Smith said. “But overall I thought the guys did a good job of responding to adversity repeatedly over and over again.”
The Spartans (8-2) certainly did not get off to the best start defensively, giving up an 80-yard touchdown connection from quarterback Drew Hartz to Kobe Hamilton on the second play from scrimmage.
However the Spartans’ offense came to life, scoring 14 unanswered in the second frame to take a 14-7 lead into the locker room. South Warren knotted it up on an 11-yard pass from junior quarterback Gavin Spurrier to senior Marcus Elmore before junior Cameron Harrison ran it in from 31 yards out on 4th-and-1 with 48 seconds left in the half.
South Warren led 21-7 after a 16-yard quarterback keeper for a touchdown by Spurrier, and the Spartans seemed to be in total control after forcing Catholic to punt on the ensuing Aces’ possession.
But one play seemed to flip the script of the game entirely.
After a holding penalty drove the Spartans back to their own 8-yard line, Spurrier was sacked in the end zone for a safety to cut the lead to 21-9 with 5:51 left in the third.
The Aces (6-4) returned the punt deep into Spartans’ territory before Hartz found Hamilton on a 27-yard touchdown strike to make it 21-16 with 4:51 remaining in the third quarter.
Catholic had their chances to regain the lead with the ball deep in Spartan territory three times during the rest of the game, but South Warren’s defense stepped up to the plate each and every time.
After the Spartans saw a punt get blocked deep in their own territory, Byrd leaped up and intercepted Hartz’s pass at the 30-yard line. The senior repeated the feat on the next Aces’ possession, recording an 80-yard pick six that was called back due to a block in the back.
Owensboro Catholic put together one more furious rally late in the fourth quarter before running back Vonn Williams was stuffed in the backfield on fourth down at his own 48-yard line with 2:46 left in regulation.
“I don’t how many times they did it but they did it a lot,” said South Warren coach Brandon Smith when asked about his defense being able to make game-changing stops late. “They weren’t put in good situations either. That’s the type of mentality, effort and big play capability that we’re used to, and I’m glad to see that finally coming together.”
The Spartans were led offensively by junior Cameron Harrison. Harrison rushed for 175 yards and one touchdown on 24 attempts in the absence of senior Christian Winn, and the junior made a major splash in his first game at the running back position.
“He did an excellent job,” Smith said. “To go into your first game playing running back and be able to make people miss, I thought he did a great job.”
Spurrier completed 16-of-26 passes for 150 yards and one score to complement his 16-yard scoring run, and senior Cody Eblen led all Spartan receivers with 40 yards on five receptions.
The Aces were led by Hartz, who completed 19-of-33 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns in the loss. Hamilton topped the receving corps, as the junior hauled in nine passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns.
South Warren will begin postseason play with a home game against Graves County on Friday night, and Smith knows the tough fight that the Eagles will give.
“There’s no easy games in our region,” Smith said. “They’re really, really good, and we’re going to have our work cut out for us.”
Meanwhile Owensboro Catholic will host Webster County in the first round for the third consecutive season. The Aces defeated the Trojans by a score of 70-0 last season.
Post-game interview with South Warren coach Brandon Smith after the Spartans' 21-16 victory over Owensboro Catholic. pic.twitter.com/ZhyevqNDs4
— The Sporting Times (@sportingtimes) October 28, 2017