11/06/05 — Saints 'D' stuffs Falcons

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Saints 'D' stuffs Falcons

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on November 6, 2005 2:37 AM

PIKEVILLE -- Southern Wayne coach Bob Warren has seen his defense improve from week-to-week all season.

Sometimes the final result and total yards allowed didn't show those positive steps, but Friday night at Charles B. Aycock, the Saints' "D" certainly capped the 2005 regular season in impressive fashion.

Southern Wayne held the Golden Falcons to 167 yards of total offense, over 100 yards below their season average, as the visitors from Dudley claimed a 24-0 win at Hardy Talton Stadium -- their first shutout of the year.

"That was one of the best efforts I've seen in a long time. Our team played so well on both sides of the football and special teams, and that's what it took," Warren said. "I feel like our defensive game plan was great. Our coaches did a tremendous job, and the kids got out there and stepped up and got the job done. They just got after it.

"This team has come so far and grown throughout the year."

The victory, the Saints first in four years against Aycock, improved Southern Wayne to 7-4 overall and 3-2 in the Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference. The Saints finished 3-0 against Wayne County opposition in 2005 as they will look to win their first-ever playoff game next week in the first round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs.

The Golden Falcons (6-5 overall) fell to 2-3 in the ECC and were 2-1 against county foes.

With an aggressive, man-defensive scheme, the Saints were consistently in the Falcon backfield through the game. Thirteen Aycock plays went for zero-or-less yards as quarterback Thomas Pilkington was sacked once each by Joey Legg and Michael Allen, who were far from alone in Southern Wayne's defensive effort.

Allen, David Combs and Justin Mitchell added one fumble recovery each in a game that saw the Falcons put it on the ground six times, losing four of them. With the score 9-0 midway through the fourth quarter, Saints' defensive back Alex Aldridge ripped a completed pass out of the hands of an Aycock receiver near the Southern Wayne 10 -- setting up the first-of-two Saint touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

By the end of the game, Aycock, which netted just 13 rushing yards, turned it over on downs twice and punted four times as it was shutout for the first time this season.

"Our defense did a pretty good job tonight, but they were on the field a lot because we weren't moving the football," Aycock coach Randy Pinkowski said. "All three parts of our game have to work together. We've got to be moving the football to keep the defensive off the field.

"A loss hurts to close the season, but the greatest thing about is we know we have one more game. We've got another chance to come out and redeem ourselves."

Southern Wayne recovered a fumble on the Aycock 46 midway through the first quarter, then marched 54 yards on eight plays to take a 6-0 lead on a 4-yard plunge by the area's leader in rushing and touchdowns, Anthony Council. The Falcons turned it over on downs on their next two possessions, and on the second, failed to convert on two chances to pick up just one yard.

The Saints then charged down to the Aycock 2 with hard running by Council and a 28-yard completion to Marcus Oates by freshman quarterback Jordan Williams, making his first start of the season. After 15-yard penalty on second down moved the Saints back to the 19 and an incompleted pass on third down, senior place-kicker Preston Grantham booted a 36-yard field goal with one second left in the half to make it 9-0 at intermission.

The field goal was Grantham's first of the season.

"I wanted to be more than a touchdown ahead if we had that opportunity. We had worked in practice on kicking from that range," Warren said. "If he kicked it like I knew he could, I knew he had the potential to make that kick. We had a great snap, a great hold and he followed through.

"I thought that was a big play going into the half being ahead 9-0."

After a scoreless third quarter, mired in penalties and a crucial, Aycock turnover at the Southern Wayne 10, the Saints forced one more punt and grabbed two more turnovers in the fourth before putting the finishing touches on their win.

Williams, who was 4-of-10 for 58 yards with one interception, connected with Marcus Oates on a 20-yard scoring strike with 4:49 left. Three plays after a Justin Mitchell fumble recovery near midfield, Council, who now has 24 touchdowns and over 1,700 yards in his sophomore campaign, posted an 8-yard score. Grantham's kick pushed the score to its final margin of 24-0.

Council rushed for 170 yards on 31 carries, while Derrick Lathan added 55 yards on 10 carries. Oates had two catches for 49 yards. The Saints were resilient in overcoming 11 penalties for 95 yards.

Pressured through the game, Pilkington finished 6-for-19 through the air for 154 yards to four different receivers. Spruce Lee grabbed two catches for 60 yards. Dontay Taylor, Aycock's only rusher that finished with positive yards, had 54 yards on seven carries.

Notes: Southern Wayne improved to 3-2 on the road, while the Golden Falcons are now 5-1 at home ... The loss was Aycock's first to a county team since a 6-0 loss to Goldsboro in 2003 ... The Saints last shutout was late in 2003 against Eastern Wayne ... Southern Wayne is now 5-1 against county foes the last two seasons.