All South Pointe needed was a window of opportunity. And when Catawba Ridge gave up three heart-breaking turnovers at crucial moments during Friday’s game, South Pointe made the most of that opportunity.
South Pointe converted three Copperheads turnovers into touchdowns, including a 70-yard interception return for a score with just a minute left in the fourth quarter that iced a wild 28-18 road victory at The Snake Pit in Fort Mill.
Down by just 21-18 with two minutes left, sophomore quarterback Jadyn Davis had led his team inside Stallions’ territory to try and set up a tying field goal. But when Davis squeezed a pass into the interior, the ball bounced up and off of a receiver’s outstretched hands and into the path of Waymond Jenerette, who ran the ball back 70 yards to kill off any chance of a Catawba Ridge comeback on Homecoming Night. Davis was 14-27 for 165 yards and two interceptions, but he also ran the ball eight times for 18 yards and two scores.
“We were trying to get down there, get in field goal range,” said Catawba Ridge coach Zac Lendyak. “We felt like we had enough time. We took a couple sacks and had to burn a couple timeouts that we didn’t want to. We gave ourselves a shot, but it just wasn’t enough.”
South Pointe, which is ranked No. 2 in Class 4A in a recent coaches’ poll on MaxPreps now improves to 4-1 on the season. Catawba Ridge, which is ranked No. 8 in the poll, drops to 3-3.
The Copperheads have now lost more games than they did all last season when they embarked on an exciting run to the state semifinals.
Catawba Ridge took the early lead in the first quarter when Davis executed a misdirection run, then dashed into the end zone himself for a 13-yard scoring run.
Heading into the second quarter, South Pointe had looked shaky at best on offense, with quarterback Zay McCrorey unable to get on the same page with his receivers.
But that all changed with five minutes left to play in the second quarter, when Chris McCullough picked off Davis when the quarterback took a shot deep downfield intended for receiver Jacobie Henderson. With the ball (and some momentum) back with South Pointe, McCrorey connected with Demari Kendrick for two short completions before delivering a long bomb to the receiver on the opposite sideline from the South Pointe 40.
Kendrick caught the ball on the Catawba Ridge 30, and was able to run unopposed into the end zone to score a 62-yard touchdown after the Catawba Ridge defender guarding him slipped on the play. Chip Distasio’s extra point gave South Pointe a 7-6 lead.
Catawba Ridge got the ball back on the ensuing possession, but could only execute two plays before running back Henry Bowen fumbled, giving the Stallions another free drive.
McCrorey then found Jenerette for a 40-yard completion over the middle to set South Pointe up inside the Catawba Ridge red zone. Two plays later, McCrorey found Jakhari Webb streaking from right to left for a 17-yard catch and score to give South Pointe a 14-6 lead.
“It’s kind of uncharacteristic,” Lendyak said, of his team giving up turnovers. “We’ve got to make plays. That’s a hard-hitting football team, they’re a state championship caliber team. If we clean that up, I think we can compete with anyone.”
Catawba Ridge redoubled its efforts in the second half. Davis and running back Tyler Jones combined for 10 of the Copperheads’ 11 plays on its first drive of the third quarter, complete with Davis bullying his way up the middle to pull the score to 14-12. Davis rolled right for the 2-point conversion, but overthrew his receiver in the end zone. Jones rushed for 85 yards on 25 carries.
It seemed that luck had swung the hosts’ way on the ensuing South Pointe possession. The Stallions went three-and-out, but the South Pointe punter was unable to corral a high snap, and the Copperheads took over inside the South Pointe 10.
It only took Jones two tries to score, which put Catawba Ridge up 18-14 with 2:22 left in the third quarter.
But by then, McCrorey’s talent had become evident. He led an 11-play drive of his own, including an acrobatic 31-yard throw to Webb, to push the visitors into the red zone. Caleb Sims pushed his way in to score from a yard out, and the PAT pushed the South Pointe lead to 21-18.
And Catawba Ridge had the perfect opportunity to answer on the next drive. Again, Davis and Jones combined their strengths to get all the way inside the Stallions’ 1 yard line on a second and goal. But Bowen and Davis both got pushed backwards, and the Copperheads had to settle for a 19-yard field goal. Kicker Kohen Kozel had a clean snap, but he pushed the kick wide right.
And by the time Catawba Ridge had the ball back, Davis had just two minutes to make a miracle happen. Unfortunately, Jenerette had other plans, stepping in front of the path of a bobbled catch and running the effort all the way back.
Lendyak said he could take away positives from the game, including his running back Jones, who took the majority of snaps during the game.
“I think we showed tonight we can physically run the football,” he said. “When we establish the run, we take pressure off, allow (Davis) to establish the field. I felt like we were in on that. I’m proud of them tonight offensively, but we gave up too many big plays.”
Catawba Ridge next travels to play York Comprehensive in a region game on Oct. 8.