The Southridge Spartans nearly erased a disastrous first half to earn their first victory of the season.
But their comeback hopes came up short as Jaylin Willis passed for 199 of 250 yards after the break for the Spartans in a 22-14 loss to Norland.
“It was the best game we had all year,” Southridge interim head coach Arties Knight said. “This team is emotionally down, but we’re getting up right now and things are starting to come together.”
The Spartans (0-5) had minus-5 yards of total offense on 24 plays in the first half and trailed 19-0 at halftime.
“They were sending more people than we could block,” Knight said. “They were overloading, stunting, using fake blitzes, and my offensive line was totally confused.”
The second half was much different as Willis got into a groove finding senior wide receivers Roscoe Parrish, who caught eight passes for 125 yards in the game, and Jaheim Jerry, who took a pass from Willis to get by a defender and race into the end zone for a 50-yard touchdown to put the Spartans on the scoreboard, cutting the deficit to 19-7 in the third quarter.
The Spartans defense was also better after the break after Norland junior Zuberi Mobley ran for 133 yards and two touchdowns in the first half before finishing with 182.
Willis crossed the goal-line for a 2-yard touchdown in controversial fashion with 9:45 left in the game as it appeared he was stopped by a pack of defenders at the line of scrimmage, but he was able to stretch out the ball into the end zone and the referees decided it was a score. An extra point by Kevin Butchers pulled Southridge within 19-14.
Southridge got the ball back with 4:40 left, but were forced to punt facing a 4th-and-20 from their own 36. A bad snap on the punt allowed Norland to take over at the 10. The defense held Norland to a 25-yard field goal by Tyrese McDonald giving the Spartans one final chance with 1:09 left, down 22-14.
“This team is right at our level, but we just made silly mistakes that cost us,” Knight said.
Another mistake proved to be too much to overcome as a holding call on first down hurt the Spartans’ chances on a potential game-tying drive as the game ended on a hook-and-ladder play without crossing mid-field.
“It’s that same little bug, those undisciplined mistakes that kills drives,” Knight said. “We made a mistake and could have taken it over the top and perhaps pulled it out at the end.”
Southridge faces Class 8A No. 1-ranked South Dade (5-0) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Harris Field.
“South Dade is probably the toughest opponent down south, but you can throw all the records out of the window with that,” Knight said. “These guys play Pop Warner together, play in the streets together, and play video games together. This is going to be electric. We’re going to hang in. We might shock the world.”
Norland (2-3) 12 7 0 3 – 22
Southridge (0-5) 0 0 7 7 - 14
Norland – Mobley 15 run (kick missed)
Norland – McMinn 43 pass from Williams (kick missed)
Norland – Mobley 32 run (McDonald kick)
Southridge – Jerry 50 pass from Willis (Butchers kick)
Southridge – Willis 2 run (Butchers kick)
Norland – McDonald 25 field goal
RUSHING: Norland: Mobley 19-182, Joseph 7-29, Sherwood 2-6, Dulcio 1--2, Williams 4--13. Southridge: Young 3-7, Parrish 1-1, Ford 2-0, Jones 1--2, Andrus 2--20, Willis 9--23.
PASSING: Norland: Williams 3-9-0, 48, Sherwood 0-2-0, 0. Southridge: Willis 18-34-0, 250, Andrus 1-3-0, 5.
RECEIVING: Norland: McMinn 2-48, Johnson 1-0. Southridge: Parrish 8-125, Jerry 5-79, Evans 3-17, Young 2-17, Jones 1-17.