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South Pittsburg raced out to a commanding first-half lead and cruised past Copper Basin 56-18 to secure the Region 3-1A championship Friday in Copperhill.

The top-ranked Pirates, who have won seven of the past nine region titles and 19 of their last 20 games against league foes, outrushed the Cougars 345-55.

Although relying heavily on its rushing attack, South Pittsburg (9-0, 4-0) scored its first two touchdowns on pass plays as junior quarterback Brayden Sanders connected with Jaylyn Hubbard on a 24-yard TD and followed with a 15-yard scoring toss to tight end Ryan Cagle. Sanders added a short TD run as the Pirates jumped out to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter.

Sophomore DeAndre Kelly, who finished with 117 yards on just eight carries, had scoring runs of 51 and 23 yards and Ronto Tipton added 92 yards on seven carries, with a 10-yard touchdown.

"Our defense really set us up in good shape early," Pirates coach Vic Grider said. "We got a couple of quick turnovers that gave us a short field, and we took advantage of it to put some quick scores on them.

"You set goals at the beginning of the year, and one of them was to win a region championship to put ourselves in a position to play the first three playoff games at home. We've done that now and taken care of business to be right where we want to be."

The runner-up Cougars (6-4, 3-1) scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns on Bryson Grabowski passes. Grabowski, who already owned the school's single-season passing record, threw for 195 yards.

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.

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