TROUTMAN — South Iredell (3-6,1-2) overcame an 18-point third quarter deficit to keep its playoff hopes alive with a 35-31 win over East Rowan (4-5, 2-2) Friday night.
It was a first half to forget for the Vikings as they struggled to stop East Rowan’s wildcat offense. A disastrous stretch to end the half found South Iredell trailing 17-6 after a fumbled punt with 46 seconds left led to an East Rowan touchdown at the halftime buzzer.
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With their season likely on the line, South Iredell Head Coach Scott Miller told his team to look in the mirror at halftime.
“We challenged them and told them to look in the mirror and that starts with me,” Miller said. “What can I do better to coach them? And look in the mirror and ask, what can you do better to help your teammates out? Our kids kept believing the whole time on the sidelines tonight and our coaches and players did a great job.”
East Rowan came out of halftime with much of the same, scoring on only their fourth pass of the game to push their lead to 18.
Trailing 24-6, Cullen Smith and Darius Smyre connected for 20- and 34-yard touchdowns on respective drives to pull the Vikings within 3.
A defensive stop on 4th and 3 in East Rowan territory gave the Vikings the ball back and Smith responded with his fourth touchdown of the game, this one a 19-yard run to give the Vikings their first lead of the game, 28-24.
“The game plan to start the game was to pound the ball,” Smith said. “At halftime our adjustment was to play fast and move the ball. And that’s what we did in the second half and we did it very well.”
On the back of sophomore running back Sammy Pinckney, East Rowan responded to their first deficit of the night. Pinckney’s third touchdown run of the night gave the Mustangs a 28-24 lead with 6:36 remaining. Pinckney finished the night with 288 yards on 37 carries.
After the East Rowan score, Smith’s offense put together another impressive drive of its own, taking the lead on Tavion Connor’s 10-yard run with just under 4 minutes remaining.
With 4 minutes remaining, Pinckney led East Rowan across midfield before he was intercepted by South Iredell’s DeMario Parks with 1:11 left in the game to put the game out of reach. Miller said he was proud of his team’s resiliency Friday night.
“Our kids, they were resilient tonight after we’ve laid down all year,” Miller said. “We challenged them at halftime and told them things weren’t going to be great, we just had to keep playing all the way to the end of the game and that’s what we did.”
South Iredell will look to continue its push for the playoffs next week as they travel to North Iredell while East Rowan travels to Statesville.