SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — It wasn’t quantity as much as quality for South Pittsburg’s offense. Class 1A’s top-ranked Pirates ran 22 fewer plays than rival Marion County but averaged 13.4 yards per snap and scored touchdowns in five plays or less six times to claim a 49-21 District 6-A win here Friday.
It was the seventh straight win over the Warriors, the most by the Pirates in the series’ 89-year history.
Three running backs finished with 147 yards or more as South Pittsburg (4-0, 2-0) rolled up 551 rushing yards. Junior Jajuan Lankford gained 213 on just 10 carries with a touchdown and a two-point conversion run.
“We didn’t start out as fast as we wanted to, but really the only way we got stopped all night was stopping ourselves,” said Lankford, who also rushed for more than 200 yards against Marion last year. “We know we don’t have to worry about the line doing their job, and all three of us backs block for each other because we know we all can make big plays.
“It’s been different this year, having to share more carries, but we’re not a selfish team and I know to just be patient and make the most of my chances.”
Two seniors who missed last year’s game against the Warriors also had big nights with fullback Corbin Hale gaining 163 yards on 13 carries and wing Demetric Johnson adding 147 on 10 carries, scoring four TDs.
“We’re just very difficult to stop because we have three quality backs and a lot of confidence in all three,” Pirates coach Vic Grider said. “We had to many turnovers and too many mistakes or it could have been worse, but I’ll take four-touchdown wins over Jasper every year.”
After South Pittsburg raced to a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter, Marion’s offense began to find a rhythm, while the Pirates sputtered, losing two fumbles in Warriors territory. The Jasper team cut the deficit on a 68-yard scoring run by Blake Zeman and threatened twice more in the first half.
Marion was held on fourth-and-goal from the 2 when Johnson blitzed off the corner to sack Matt Zeman for a 13-yard loss.
The Warriors also missed a 29-yard field-goal try just before halftime but began the second half by recovering an onside kick, then driving 51 yards in six plays, capped by Hamilton Shoemaker’s 15-yard scoring run.
That made it a one-possession game, but only for one play as Johnson took the Pirates’ next snap and bolted 52 yards for a TD. Lankford added a 41-yard score and the Pirates salted the game away with a 13-play scoring drive.
“This was my last game against them, so I had to play with heart,” Hale said.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...