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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / South Pittsburg's Blaine Pittman tackles Marion County's Taye Hutchins for no gain during Friday night's game in Jasper, Tenn. South Pittsburg won 63-7.
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Pirates crush Warriors

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JASPER, Tenn. — It's hard to imagine an offense that scored seven touchdowns being overshadowed, but that was the case Friday night thanks to South Pittsburg's smothering defense.

The Pirates were completely dominant in every phase of the game while rolling to a 63-7 nonregion victory at Marion County.

In the third-most lopsided outcome in the history of the heated series — the cross-county rivals met for the 95th time — it was South Pittsburg's defense that was especially impressive, holding Class 2A's Warriors (1-3) to 70 total yards, including 16 plays that gained zero or negative yardage. Before their final drive of the night, which covered 12 plays for the hosts' lone touchdown, the Warriors had been held to minus-10 yards.

The Pirates (4-0), No. 1 in the 1A state poll, had allowed an average of just 38.7 yards in their first three games this season. They held Marion to three-and-out series on its first nine possessions, not allowing a first down until midway through the fourth quarter.

"Defensively, we're just pretty good. There's not much else you can say," Pirates coach Vic Grider said, before giving credit to defensive coordinator Shawn Peek. "Coach Peek does an outstanding job of getting those guys ready and then calling a great game on that side.

"I'm proud of the effort by our guys, top to bottom. We were ready to play. We got off to exactly the kind of start we wanted to. I don't think we could've scripted it any better. We knew they have a young team, and we wanted to jump on them and put them on their heels early."

After South Pittsburg's defense forced Marion three-and-out with the Warriors backed up at their 5-yard line, it was special teams that got the scoring started when the Pirates' J.J. Beene blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone.

After a short touchdown run by Brett Nelson, special teams struck again when Ronto Tipton returned a punt 55 yards for a score on the final play of the first quarter and the Pirates led 21-0 heading to the second.

Hunter Frame, who led the Pirates in rushing with 100 yards on just seven carries, raced 52 yards for another touchdown. Nelson then added his second score of the night to put the Pirates in command at 35-0.

They scored on the final snap of the first half, too, with Brayden Sanders connecting with Jaylyn Hubbard on a 14-yard touchdown strike. It was 42-0 at the break.

"It's hard to explain how it feels," said Nelson, who had played at Marion prior to transferring last year. "I'm just glad to come out here with my brothers and play the way we did together tonight.

"Defensively, we want to shut out everybody we play. Unfortunately, we didn't get that."

South Pittsburg needed just four plays to add its first two scores of the second half and finished with 371 total yards, with 240 on the ground. Sanders was 7-of-10 passing for the remaining yards and two touchdowns.

The Pirates have now won 12 of the past 14 meetings in the series.

"It was 21-0 after the first quarter, and it felt like we hadn't really even had the ball much yet," said Grider, who went to each of his seniors individually to congratulate them on going 4-0 against Marion during their careers. "That's just a really big deal for our guys. To go out and do it is something really special. To say they never lost to Jasper is something they can carry on for the rest of their life."

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

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