SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — The only adjustment made at halftime was attitude.
With his team clinging to a seven-point lead, South Pittsburg football coach Vic Grider's halftime speech was simple and direct. In PG-13 terms, the veteran coach challenged his players' manhood after he felt they had been physically outplayed.
The response was just as direct and just as simple as the Pirates answered the challenge by rushing for more than 200 yards in the second half and outscoring visiting Monterey 22-0 to pull away for a 43-14 win in the second round of the TSSAA Class 1A playoffs.
"We did not play well in the first half, especially defensively," Grider said. "We didn't tackle well, and I think they shocked us a little with how physical they were. We had to come out and match that, and I thought that second half really showed what it means to our guys. That's when we started to look like a veteran team.
"On offense, we went back to old-school football. We made the decision to just line up and give it to our best players and run right at them."
The Pirates gave the ball to senior running back Hunter Frame a season-high 19 times, and the state Mr. Football semifinalist responded by gaining 201 yards and scoring four touchdowns.
"It really sets in that this could be your last game if you don't step up and play better in the second half," said Frame, who has has scored 31 touchdowns and rushed for more than 1,500 yards this season. "We didn't want our last game to be here on our own field, we want it to be in Cookeville."
South Pittsburg will travel to Gordonsville in next week's quarterfinal round.
The Pirates (11-1) jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Wildcats (8-3), who had not allowed more than 22 points all season, began to find success off the left side of their line to pull within 21-14 at halftime and seemingly had momentum. But after giving up 80 rushing yards in the first half, South Pittsburg limited the Tigers to just 39 in the second and wound up with a 404-169 advantage in total yards.
The Pirates' defense also picked off three passes as De'Andre Kelly, Jackson Lewis and Richard Hunter each stopped Monterey drives with acrobatic interceptions. Kelly added 92 rushing yards on 12 carries ,and Brayden Sanders completed seven of 11 passes for 100 yards and also ran for a score.
"They kind of worked us a little bit in the first half, but I told our guys we had to step up and play as hard as we can because we knew this could be our last game," said Pirates senior offensive lineman and linebacker Jared Stone, also a Mr. Football semifinalist. "We had to come back at them with everything we have. I'm proud of the way we stood up and answered the call when we got challenged."
McCallie 42, Christian Brothers 28: After falling behind early, the Blue Tornado countered with 35 unanswered points to advance to the Division II-AAA semifinals, where they will travel to top-ranked Brentwood Academy. BA rallied to defeat Pope John Paul II 34-31.
Christian Brothers actually ran 15 more offensive plays and outgained McCallie 422-391 in total yards, but the Blue Tornado struck for four big-play scores that covered 46-plus yards. That included a 46-yard punt return for a touchdown by Michael May, as well as scoring passes of 73 and 49 yards and an 86-yard touchdown spring by B.J. Harris.
William Riddle completed 10 of 17 passes for 173 yards and three touchdowns and Harris ran for 107 yards and a score. Mr. Football semifinalist running back Dallan Hayden of Christian Brothers was held to 119 yards and did not score.
Watertown 44, Marion County 21: Taye Hutchins ran for 155 yards and a touchdown, and Alex Condra finished with 76 yards and a score for the Warriors, but it was not enough as Watertown pulled away late in the Class 2A second-round game.
Other area scores: Maryville 35, Bradley Central 6; Elizabethton 35, East Hamilton 7; Knoxvile West 32, Walker Valley 3.