Friday night’s Class 8A state semifinal will not go down officially as a shutout.
But for the Southridge defense it was.
The squad that shut out eight teams this season helped its offense overcome six turnovers, including five in the first half, and did not give up any points as Southridge secured a 26-7 comeback win over host Deerfield Beach.
The Spartans (11-2) clinched their first trip to the state finals since 1999 and will play Orlando Dr. Phillips (12-2) next Saturday for the state championship at 8 p.m. at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. Southridge will try to win its first state title since 1993.
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Deerfield Beach (10-3) fell short of the state finals after advancing to the semifinals for the first time since 2007.
“These kids set that goal from the start of the season to get to state and play great football for 16 weeks,” Southridge coach Billy Rolle said. “Those guys hung in there. We still got the shutout at least on the defensive side.”
Five of the Spartans turnovers were fumbles and all in their own territory.
But trailing 7-6, the tide shifted as soon as senior defensive end Randy Charlton jumped and intercepted a pass from Deerfield Beach quarterback Nick Holm late in the third quarter and returned it to the 50-yard line.
On the ensuing drive, Antwan Collier ran four times effectively in succession, capping the series with a go-ahead 19-yard touchdown run that gave Southridge a 12-7 lead.
“We had [Charlton] spying the quarterback on that play and that’s something we practiced all week,” Rolle said. “That was huge at that point in the game.”
Deerfield Beach responded with a drive into the Southridge red zone in which Holm completed five passes to wide receiver and Alabama commit Jerry Jeudy, who caught nine passes for 91 yards.
But Shawn Davis intercepted Holm near his own goal line and returned it 96 yards for a touchdown that put Southridge ahead 20-7 after a two-point conversion with 8:51 left in the fourth.
The score effectively put the game away for the Spartans, who added more when Collier scored again from 6 yards out.
“Our defense kept coming through,” Collier said. “We had a big stop at the 1. At halftime, the offense said they needed me. I got us a couple of big runs, got us the lead, and we came out with the win.”
Southridge’s defense sacked Holm 10 times led by Dimitry Prophete’s 5 1/2 sacks and Brandon James’ 3 1/2.
The 10 points the Spartans’ defense allowed last week against Coral Gables are the only scores it’s surrendered over its past nine games.
“I wouldn’t be able to do that without my whole d-line,” Prophete said. “The coaches teach me to use my hands. … Deerfield is a good team. I respect them a lot.”
The Spartans’ most costly giveaway came deep in their own territory when Bentavious Thompson had the ball jarred loose leading to sophomore linebacker Gemon Eafford scooping it up and returning it 5 yards for a Deerfield touchdown.
Mark Pope helped Southridge answer immediately with a 98-yard return for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff to cut the Bucks’ lead to 7-6. That’s how the score remained after sophomore Keyon Martin blocked the extra point.
Southridge turned the ball over twice more in the second quarter.
On the second one, Demetrius Palmer intercepted Michael Cox and returned it into Southridge territory. Three penalties on third downs kept the Bucks drives alive.
But facing a fourth-and-goal on its own 2, Southridge’s defense came through again when Coemba Jones stuffed Deerfield Beach quarterback Nick Holm at the 1-yard line right before the half.
The Bucks also missed a field goal and were forced to punt twice following Southridge turnovers in the first half.
“This is big as hell,” Prophete said. “We worked all spring and summer and put our blood and sweat in all this. It feels good, really good.”