Score and statistics don't do justice to the Conference Indiana high school football gameFriday night between Terre Haute South and host Southport.
Class 6A's fifth-ranked Cardinals had all the numbers in their favor in a 34-7 homecoming win, but the game was still in the Braves' reach until late in the third quarter thanks to a dogged defensive effort.
But the South defense also had to account for its only points -- a 60-yard interception return by Logan Deady late in the first quarter -- and the powerful Cardinals eventually wore the Braves down.
"Our defense played hard," coach Tim Herrin agreed. "We just got tired down the stretch."
Christian Perry, the conference's leading rusher, had 210 yards on the ground and a pair of breakaway touchdown runs in the second half, while sophomore quarterback Luke Johnston passed for 261.
If the Braves had a defensive problem, it was covering Johnston's quick, short passes to slotback Chinoya Phiri, who caught seven balls for 126 yards and had the tackle-eluding 43-yard scoring reception that put Southport ahead to stay.
But that 14-7 score was still in force at halftime -- Luke Church made an open-field tackle to stop Perry at the 1-yard line on fourth down with 6.7 seconds left before intermission -- and the Braves shook off a 36-yard burst by Perry to stop the Cardinals deep in South territory early in the third period.
Then came a shower of penalty flags. South went from second-and-2 to second-and-27 thanks to a holding call, then offensive pass interference on a screen pass. Even on the ensuing punt, the Braves were whistled for illegal participation and had to punt again, allowing Southport to start a drive at the South 40-yard line.
"For about two and a half quarters, we executed our game plan," Herrin said. "Then we made some uncharacteristic mistakes from the middle of the third quarter on."
It took the Cardinals seven plays to get a score, a pass from Johnston to Tim Jewell. Early in the fourth quarter the Braves went for it on fourth-and-2 at Southport's 48, coming up a yard short, and two runs by Perry -- 13 yards, then 39 for the score -- put the game out of reach. Perry added a 29-yard scoring run later in the fourth quarter.
"They're a good football team," Herrin said of the Cardinals, "and I thought our kids gave them everything we had."
The Braves, still a couple of weeks away from getting quarterback Timmy Herrin back in the lineup, managed just 120 yards in total offense for the game. Taxi Brown completed a respectable 6 of 10 passes for 79 yards, but thanks to some big negative plays the running game averaged just over a yard per carry.
The Cardinals took a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter on a 52-yard scoring drive that was mostly Perry. His 21-yard run -- and a subsequent face-mask penalty -- set up the home team at South's 6-yard line, and Perry tallied from there on the next play.
Deady's pick-6 on Southport's next series tied the score, however, and the Braves had three first downs -- of their total of seven for the game -- on a drive from their own 7-yard line to the 49. A big loss on a reverse play wiped out that series, however, and Southport went 80 yards in four plays to take the lead for good. A quick slant to Jewell went for 36 yards, and Phiri took a short pass for the go-ahead score on the next play.
"Hopefully in the next two weeks we'll start getting some guys back," coach Herrin said.
South is back in southern Marion County next week at Franklin Central, while the Cardinals try to maintain their unbeaten season at Bloomington North.