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STANHOPE — Southern Nash showed that it’s more than just a big-play offensive football team as the Firebirds defense shut down E.E. Smith of Fayetteville 38-6 in the first round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A football playoffs Thursday night at Firebird Stadium.
The No. 1 seed in the 3-A East Region, Southern Nash limited the No. 16 Golden Bulls to just 78 yards of offense and picked off three passes on its way to its 12th straight victory.
“I was really impressed with our defense tonight,” Southern Nash head coach Brian Foster said. “That was by far the best game we played on defense.”
The 3-A Big East Conference Firebirds will host league and county rival Northern Nash in the second round Friday, Nov. 22. The No. 8 Knights pummeled No. 9 Vance County 54-30 in the first round Thursday.
The Firebirds rolled up 361 yards on the ground, led by senior Quinton Cooley’s 148 yards on 16 carries. Cooley didn’t score a touchdown but he ran in three of the Firebirds’ four two-point conversions. Southern Nash was without senior placekicker Evan Barnes but converted 4 of 5 two-point opportunities.
“I thought we were probably going to have to do that,” Foster said.
Southern Nash marched downfield on its first possession with sophomore Jackson Vick running the ball into the end zone from 5 yards to end it.
The Golden Bulls scored their only TD on a 90-yard fumble recovery and return by Michael Davis midway the first quarter. However, the two-point run failed and E.E. Smith wouldn’t come close to Southern Nash again on the scoreboard.
Senior Daylon Whitley scored on runs of 25 and 3 yards, which, along with another Cooley conversion run, left Southern Nash up 22-6 at halftime.
In the opening minute of the third quarter, senior quarterback Matt Foster attempted his only pass and it was good for a 64-yard TD to Vick, who scampered 55 yards for the Firebirds’ final TD later in the quarter.
Vick finished with 80 yards on eight rushes while Foster added 58 yards on 15 carries. Foster, who drew punting duty with Barnes out, also had a 35-yard punt.
Defensively, inside linebacker Cam Thompson and outside linebacker Xavien Smith earned praise from Brian Foster, who also noted of his ends Terrence Raspberry and Whitley: “Our ends had to play good with what they do with so many counters.”
Senior Izaiah Walker-Warren intercepted two Smith passes while Jason Bland also picked off a Golden Bulls aerial.