Killian has experienced a football renaissance over the past two seasons.
Southridge has shown this season that it is on its way to its own comeback to championship contention.
The two longtime rivals met Thursday with a district championship on the line.
And the outcome was decided on the final play of the game when, once again, Killian’s defensive playmakers sealed a victory, this time a 17-12 win over Southridge that secured the District 16-8A title.
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“It was fitting that this game went down to the last play,” Killian coach Cory Johnson said. “I told my kids those kids at Southridge were hungry. It’s fitting that it ends like that. We started something here, and we’re going to finish.”
Southridge quarterback Jerry Drakar heaved a pass into the corner of the end zone in the vicinity of receivers Freddie Pinder and Malik Spatcher.
But with cornerback Jaquan Johnson and linebacker James Bowe in coverage, the Cougars broke up the last-ditch attempt as time expired.
Killian (9-0, 4-0 in district) won its second consecutive district title and will host the runner-up from District 15-8A in the first round of the playoffs in two weeks. Southridge (6-3, 3-1), which clinched a playoff berth last week for the first time since 2011, will travel to the District 15-8A champion.
“That fight and that will these guys show at the end of a game, you just can’t teach,” Johnson said.
Killian’s defense showed the typical grit it has shown throughout the season.
What the Cougars have been complementing it with in recent weeks is a consistent running game.
Led by sophomore Bentavious Thompson’s 71 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries, Killian amassed 128 yards rushing and jumped out to an early 10-0 lead.
“Those guys haven’t completely gelled yet, but once they do, it’s going to be something special,” Johnson said.
Southridge countered with its own running game as backup quarterback Dion Hill scored two touchdowns and senior tailback Roshard Phillips had 78 yards on 21 carries.
Hill’s 15-yard touchdown run in the third quarter cut Killian’s lead to 17-12.
But the Spartans were unable to capitalize three times in Killian territory following the score.
“You have a Southridge guy leading the way and restoring pride to where he came from and the community he served,” Johnson said. “[Southridge] coach Don McKnight is making those kids believe again in their school and their system.”