MOORE — A win is a win. That is the best way Southmoore players could describe what happened Friday when they hosted Moore in the Battle of the Big Cats at Moore Stadium.
Even though the SaberCats came away with a 41-23 victory, the manner in which they earned it left a lot to be desired for a team with designs on making a long playoff run.
“We played good,” Southmoore’s Karltrell Henderson said. “We had some mishaps. But at the end of the day, we all pulled it together and did what we had to do.”
Henderson was one of the SaberCats who got off to a slow start. But just like the rest of the team, he exploded in the second half. After a strong talking-to by his position coach, the senior tailback ran for 191 of his 201 yards after halftime.
“My linemen just told me they were going to give me two seconds,” Henderson said. “They gave me the rush to keep going. I wasn’t going to give up on them. Big ups to my linemen.”
The win propelled Southmoore to 3-0 on the season while the Lions dropped to 0-3. But unlike the previous two contests, Moore definitely had chances to secure the victory.
Yet, that was not enough to console the Lions, who felt they gave the game away.
“It was real tough,” Moore’s Colin Webb said. “It’s the last time we will ever get to play these guys. Every game you lose is tough. Doesn’t matter what the score is.”
Southmoore’s first offensive possession of the game could not have gone more textbook. The Cats drove 61 yards down to the Lions 9-yard line. Quarterback Tre Edwards then hit tight end Jackson Stallings for the game’s first touchdown.
The Lions responded with a Trevor Hunt 37 yard field goal. But Edwards reeled off a 40-yard touchdown run on the very next possession to give the SaberCats a 14-3 lead. The senior ran for 118 yards and passed for 114 on the evening.
“‘All the players were coming to me asking me to take over with my legs,’ Edwards said.
Moore hurt itself early in the second quarter when Derek Harris intercepted Edwards and had an easy path for a touchdown. However, a personal foul was called on the other side of the field, which erased the score. The Lions kept the ball but started on their own 26 yard line.
Despite that, Webb and the Lions were able to make their way down field using their power running game. Tyeson Neals, Canaan Cook, Ryan Diaz, Ethan Birdwell and Kendrick Cravens bullied SaberCats front seven for more than six minutes. Rylan Lugan got the touchdown when he scored from two yards out.
Moore trailed 14-10 at halftime.
“Moore came out pretty aggressive” Southmoore’s Terrance Bonner said. “They are hungry. We just came out flat. We had to step up it up at halftime. Everybody yelled. It was intense. There were some things said I probably couldn’t tell you.”
The momentum was still on the Lions’ sideline to start the second half. Harris returned a kickoff 89 yards for a TD giving Moore a 17-14 advantage.
But the Cats didn’t buckle under the pressure. They responded by putting the ball into the hands of their playmakers. Edwards connected with Jalen Adams for a 30-yard touchdown pass on fourth down to give the Cats the lead. Henderson put the exclamation point on the third when he bulldozed his way for a 10-yard touchdown run.
Southmoore’s three-point deficit quickly turned into an 11-point advantage heading into the fourth.
After Lugan scored again, Moore went for an onside kick and recovered it. But the officials said the Lions touched the ball early.
Edwards and Henderson each scored one more time to close the game out and earn the Cats a city championship.
“We knew it was our senior year and our last year to make something,” Cody Earp said. “We wanted to bring that city championship back home.”