Knights lose Tri-County crown to Shelby, 26-12
RS Middle football needed one more win to cap a dream season and earn the title of Tri-County Champion, but the Blue Devils of Shelby Middle stood in its way and downed the Knights, 26-12, Wednesday night at Shelby High School. The Knights failed to find an answer for the Shelby rushing attack that controlled the clock while putting points on the board.
“We had a rocky start but we made some adjustments at halftime and started moving the ball. We just ran out of time,” RS Middle head coach Brad Hutchins said after the game. “Our hats off to Shelby, they just have speed everywhere and it killed us.”
The Knights sputtered on their opening drive and were forced to punt after just three plays.
Shelby’s running game took over and melted the game clock until the end of the first quarter.
“That’s just middle school football,” Hutchins said of the Shelby’s ball control. “We’re used to Shelby striking quick and we thought that’s what they would do, but they managed to keep the ball away from us.”
The Blue Devils committed three penalties to start the second quarter, but a big third down run set up an 18-yard touchdown pass from Malik Surratt to Tavoris Scott who snuck behind the RS Middle defense. The extra point put the Blue Devils on top, 7-0, with 4:48 left in the half.
On the ensuing drive, RS Middle quarterback Josh Searcy tossed a deep ball on third-and-long but Shelby’s Xavier Brooks came down with the ball at the Shelby 42.
Luckily for the Knights, Shelby’s Dax Hollifield fumbled after a big gain and Searcy bounced on the loss ball at the RS Middle 44.
Unfortunately, Searcy was sacked on first and second down before just a 3-yard gain on third down before the clock expired for the half with Shelby still leading, 7-0.
Shelby looked to be on the move to start the second half, but a holding call erased a long Hollifield run to push the Blue Devils back onto their own side of the field.
However, the Shelby rushing attack led by Joe Washington marched the Blue Devils inside of the Knights 10-yard line before Brooks scampered into the end zone from 5 yards out. After the missed extra point, Shelby led 13-0 with 3:10 left in the third quarter.
RS Middle responded in a big way when Searcy used his long legs to go 60 yards on the ensuing drive’s first play before he was dragged down from behind at the Shelby 2.
“Searcy read the play perfectly, got around to the corner and saw the break,” Hutchins said. “He’s just an athlete and he’s made to play.”
On the next play Tripp Clark punched the ball into the end zone behind his big offensive line. The point after was no good but the Knights trimmed the Shelby lead to 7 points, 13-6.
The Blue Devil ground attack didn’t skip a beat as Brooks and Hollifield marched the ball downfield before Scott went around the right edge and into the end zone from 15 yards out. After the failed two-point conversion Shelby led the Knights 19-6.
Brandon Smith and Searcy highlighted the next drive for the nights with runs of 26 yards and 20 yards, respectively, to set the Knights up with first-and-goal at the Shelby 10 to start the fourth quarter.
On second-and-goal from the 8, Smith fumbled but Searcy recovered the loose ball. Smith redeemed himself on third down by finishing the drive with a 7-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion failed as the Knights cut the Shelby lead to 19-12 with 6:39 left in the game.
Again, the Shelby ground attack was handed the ball and didn’t stop until they put six more points on the board. Brooks did the honors again from 1-yard out with just over two minutes left in the game. The Knights turned the ball over on down on their next possession and the Blue Devils went into the victory formation and killed the clock for the 26-12 victory and the Tri-County Championship.
“These kids worked hard all season and only lost two games,” Hutchins said. “I’m so tickled right now I couldn’t ask for anything else.”
Now the Knights prepare for next season to either wear the same uniform or suit up for the R-S Central Hilltoppers on the high school level.
“We’re going to get right back to work and get these 8th graders in with the high school for spring practices. We just want to instill the desire to work hard and create good Hilltoppers,” Hutchins said. “The commitment these kids have given to this football team and the belief to not only be a better football player, but to win as a Hilltopper is unbelievable. At the end of the day it’s all about Friday night and these kids want to carry on a winning tradition.”