After sleepwalking through the first half, South Pittsburg woke up in time to rally for four consecutive touchdowns and a 27-14 Class 1A second-round playoff win at Gordonsville on Friday.
The Pirates had more penalty yards than offensive gains in the first half, managing just 39 total yards by halftime in falling behind 7-0. But a muffed punt early in the third quarter opened the door for a momentum-shifting scoring drive, and the Pirates went on to score on three of their first four second-half possessions.
"I'm proud of how we played in the second half. For about a 14-minute span we were a pretty good football team," Pirates coach Vic Grider said. "When we play like that we can be pretty good, but when we play like we did in the first half it can be really ugly.
"At this point in the season the only thing that really matters is to survive and advance, and that's what we were able to do."
South Pittsburg (11-1) will travel again next week to face cross-county rival Whitwell (12-0) in a quarterfinal. That will be a rematch of the Tigers' 34-12 win earlier this season.
Penalties prevented South Pittsburg from mounting any offense in the first half, while Gordonsville took the lead with a 16-play, 86-yard drive — converting three third downs and a fourth down — chewing up nearly 10 minutes before Matthew Thompson scored on an 8-yard run.
The Pirates' first score also came on an 8-yard run, as Garrett Raulston capped a 46-yard drive that began after a punt bounced off a Gordonsville player's leg and was recovered by the visitors.
Junior wing Ronto Tipton, who finished with 135 yards on 11 carries, put the Pirates ahead to stay with a 55-yard scoring run on their next possession. South Pittsburg put the game away with two more TD runs in the fourth, the first covering 10 yards by sophomore Hunter Frame, followed by Raulston's 1-yard dive as part of a 203-yard second-half rushing total.
The Pirates held Gordsonville to 45 rushing yards and intercepted three passes.
"The bottom line is we just blocked a whole lot better up front in the second half," Grider added.
* Meigs County 28, Rockwood 14: The top-ranked Tigers made the most of their limited possessions, scoring on three of the four times they had the ball in the first half in jumping out to a 21-7 lead.
Junior quarterback Aaron Swafford proved why he's a two-time Mr. Football semifinalist, accounting for all four Meigs County scores — rushing for 120 yards and three TDs and throwing for another.
"Aaron took over when we needed him to," Tigers coach Jason Fitzgerald said. "When it's a cold, wet, physical game you have to be able to run the ball, and we did. Up front we really controlled things."
Meigs County (12-0) will host South Greene (8-4) in next week's quarterfinal round.
Rockwood's first score came after a 16-play, 70-yard drive that took up nearly the entire second quarter. Meigs County finished with a 313-204 advantage in toal yards.
* Farragut 49, Ooltewah 14: Gavin Wilkinson completed 16 of 18 passes for 180 yards and three TDs and Kyle Carter ran for 115 yards and two scores to lead the Admirals (11-1) into the quarterfinals of the 6A bracket.
* Davidson Academy 51, Grace Academy 20: The top-ranked Bears (11-0) scored 50-plus for the eighth time this season to advance to the Division II-A semifinals.
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.