South Warren rolls past Graves County, 38-12
South Warren senior running back Christian Winn made sure he played his very best in the Spartans’ first home game since Sept. 29.
In front of an electric crowd that included former Heisman trophy winner and Florida and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier in the stands, Winn rushed for three touchdowns and 174 yards on 16 carries to lift the Spartans past the Graves County Eagles in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs on Friday night.
“He ran his tail off,” South Warren coach Brandon Smith said. “He ran like a possessed man tonight, and when you do that it inspires other people. I thought he did that and he inspired our offense. He deserves a lot of credit for tonight.”
“It’s senior year,” Winn said. “I knew I had to leave my mark on this game so I just came out and played to the best of my ability.”
South Warren opened up with a 3-0 lead on a 27-yard field goal by senior kicker Alex Cohron on the opening drive before senior defensive end Greg Byrd recorded his third interception in four defensive series to give the Spartans prime field position.
The Spartans (9-2) then found the end zone on a trick play when junior quarterback Gavin Spurrier threw the ball across the field to junior wide receiver Cameron Harrison, whom then tossed it to fellow junior Clayton Bush for a 42-yard score.
Graves County (6-5) answered right back with a long drive led by running back Gabe Harned—who rushed for 51 yards on that possession alone—before sophomore Cody Goatley took it out of the Wildcat formation from one yard out and rumbled in for the score on the first play of the second quarter. The Eagles went for two after the touchdown but did not convert.
South Warren extended its lead back to two possessions after a 11-yard touchdown strike from Spurrier to senior Cody Eblen with 7:45 left in the second quarter before the Spartan secondary came up with another big play late in the first half.
Graves County junior quarterback Ryan Mathis was trying to connect with a teammate on a wheel route when senior Tryce Cofer (Jackson) leaped up and snagged the ball before returning it all the way to the Eagle 9-yard line. The Spartans finally punched it in with a 1-yard touchdown run by Winn on fourth-and-goal to go up 24-6. With just 1:40 remaining in the half, it looked like that would be the lead the Spartans would take to the locker room.
But the Eagles had other ideas.
Facing a 4th-and-14 at its own 47-yard line Graves County played riverboat gambler, as senior Trevor Grant faked the punt and passed to fellow senior Carson Elliot, whom caught several key blocks downfield and scampered into the end zone to make it 24-12 at the intermission.
However the Spartans quickly took the reins of the game in the second half.
After Graves went three-and-out to start the second half, Winn exploded for a 51-yard run up the left sideline to make the score 31-12 with 9:56 left in the third.
In desperate need of a score, the Eagles drove all the way down to the Spartans 20-yard line before Goatley was tackled in the backfield on fourth downs.
Behind several great runs from Winn—including a 34-yarder—South Warren punched it in the end zone once again on a 1-yard run by Winn to ultimately make the final score 38-12.
Winn led the Spartans with 174 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries, while Harrison added 55 yards on nine carries to complement his 175-yard performance against Owensboro Catholic last week.
Spurrier completed 12-of-15 passes for 112 yards and a score, and Eblen topped the receiving corps with 27 yards and a score on two receptions.
Mathis completed 9-of-19 passes for 97 yards for the Eagles, but the junior also tossed two interceptions on the night.
Horned led all Graves County rushers, accumulating 69 yards on 12 handoffs.
Coming off a month where the Spartans struggled to find consistency, Smith was very happy with his team after the win.
“It was a well-balanced game,” Smith said. “I thought offense, special teams and defense really did a nice job and executed well. It was just a good team win tonight.”
Meanwhile it was a rough night for the Eagles, who saw the state-leading wide receiver Grant get limited to just 40 yards on three receptions by Cofer and Byrd of the Spartans.
“They’ve been challenged a lot in the past couple of weeks,” Smith said. “Graves County had a receiver (Grant) that was absolutely outstanding. They (Cofer and Byrd) took that challenge, they ran with it and I thought they did a nice job.”
South Warren will now travel to Hopkinsville to face off against 11-0 and First District champion Christian County on Friday night, and Smith knows his team will be in for a battle at Stadium of Champions.
“It does not get any easier,” Smith said. “They have an outstanding team, they’re undefeated, and we’ll have our work cut out for us.”