South Pittsburg and Lookout Valley were picked to battle for the District 6-A regular season championship in preseason voting.
After Friday night’s game at Joe L. Bean Field, the Yellow Jackets are small objects in the Pirates’ rear view mirror.
South Pittsburg, the state’s top-ranked Class A team, sledgehammered Lookout Valley, 69-27, behind a monstrous rushing attack that piled up a whopping 672 yards and nine touchdowns. The Pirates threw two passes and had zero yards passing, but didn’t need any help in that offensive category in the opening District 6-A game for both teams.
“That’s just what we do,” Pirates coach Vic Grider said. “We have two running backs who we believe are as good as any in the state in our class. And we have one guy – fullback Corbin Hale – that doesn’t get much attention, but does a great deal for our run game.
“That keeps wearing on teams. Lookout Valley hung in there with us for a while, but it started taking a toll on them in the second quarter and really showed in the third.”
Leading the bulldozing ground game was senior running back Demetric Johnson, who gashed the Yellow Jackets’ defense for 308 yards and six touchdowns on 14 carries.
Johnson came up 31 yard shy of Johnny Sisco's single-game school record set in 1985, but his six touchdowns tied the mark of Sam Pickett.
Johnson scored on runs of 7, 14, 73, 74, 22 and 49 yards as the Pirates overwhelmed the Yellow Jackets with quick-hitters up the middle, mid-line shots to the gut and power sweeps that swept Lookout Valley’s defense aside all night.
“That’s the best I’ve done,” Johnson said. “I think I had like 250 yards against Grundy County. We wanted to run the ball tonight and I wouldn’t have done much at all without those guys up front and all around me blocking like they did.”
Hale and running back Jauan Lankford each cracked the 100-yard rushing barrier, too.
Hale finished with 125 yards on 10 carries, including a 57-yard touchdown jaunt in the second quarter.
Lankford added 105 yards on six carries and scored from 43 yards out right after Hale’s touchdown.
Reserve running back Corbin Ellers got the other South Pittsburg (2-0) touchdown, a 36-yard burst in the fourth quarter.
“They’re No. 1 in the state for a reason,” Lookout Valley coach Tony Webb said. “We knew they were going to run the ball. People always talk about how fast they are, but to me the big thing is they’re very physical and well-coached. I’ve seen teams that might be faster, but they weren’t as good as South Pittsburg. They do everything so well offensively.
“They’re always the most physical team we play all year. We made a couple of adjustments in our secondary, but they made no difference.”
The Pirates have made a habit of pounding the Yellow Jackets (2-1) over the years.
Going back to 1998, South Pittsburg has scored an average of 49.1 points against Lookout Valley, twice scoring in the 70s, twice in the 60s, five times in the 50s, three in the 40s and twice in the 30s.
In that same stretch, Lookout Valley has averaged a meager 9.3 points against South Pittsburg, which won each year, save a forfeit in 2000. That score is posted as a 1-0 Yellow Jacket win on hsfdatabase.com.
Friday night’s district opener for both teams was a one-sided mauling, although the Yellow Jackets put up a fight early on.
The Pirates, who have won five titles in their nine trips to the championship game, established the game tempo on their first possession. Johnson’s 7-yard touchdown run capped an 83-yard, 12-play drive and the rest of the game resembled the Kentucky Derby and the Pirates had more thoroughbreds.
Lookout Valley quarterback Vann Scribner bolted 52 yards for a score on his team’s third play.
After Hale’s 39-yard kickoff return to the Yellow Jackets’ 36, Johnson hit the end zone three plays later from 14 yards out.
Twenty-three seconds later the Yellow Jackets’ Toney Summerow strolled into the end zone after a 77-yard kickoff return and Lookout Valley led, 14-13, after one quarter.
On the second play of the second quarter, Johnson scored his third touchdown, this one ending a stunning 80-yard, two-play drive. Johnson got the other 7 yards on a first-down run.
Again, the Yellow Jackets answered South Pittsburg’s challenge on Summerow’s 6-yard scoring burst.
Before the quarter ended, Hale, Lankford and Johnson each scored touchdowns and the Pirates’ well-oiled offense was in high gear. Johnson’s fourth score gave South Pittsburg a 42-20 halftime cushion.
Johnson was well on his way to a career night.
The 6-foot, 180-pound senior rushed 12 times for 237 yards and four touchdowns in the first half and the Pirates had 425 yards on the ground.
“In our first two games, Demetric has played like we always thought he could play,” Grider said. “Last year he was never healthy until the ninth or 10th game of the season. He is a talented, gifted player and I’m glad he plays for us.”
Only one thing went wrong for the Pirates in the first half.
Just before Lookout Valley scored with 8:06 left in the second quarter, South Pittsburg defensive lineman Stephon Mitchell, a 5-11, 220-pound junior, suffered an apparent dislocated left knee. The game was halted at 8:12 p.m. and Hamilton County Emergency Medical Service personnel got him loaded into an ambulance about 25 minutes later.
“It looked like a dislocation,” Grider said. “I’d say he’ll be out at least six weeks and that’s a big-time loss for us. That’s the bad part of this game – injuries.”
South Pittsburg, which is 63-25 in 29 postseason appearances, shook off the effects of Mitchell’s scary injury and finished off the Yellow Jackets in the second half.
Lookout Valley’s final touchdown came on Scribner’s 2-yard run with 8:53 left in the third quarter. The score capped a 63-yard, seven-play drive.
Scribner completed 6-of-10 passes for 190 yards and led the Yellow Jackets’ ground game with 97 yards on 11 carries. Jamal Jones rushed for 87 yards on 16 tries.
Leading 50-27 in the third quarter, South Pittsburg’s defense forced a Lookout Valley punt and the Pirates set up shop at their own 33.
On first down, Hale bolted 25 yards to the Lookout Valley 42. On the next play, Lankford ripped off a touchdown run that was negated by a holding penalty.
On the very next play, Johnson zipped 49 yards for his final touchdown to push the Pirates’ lead to 56-27 with 5:24 left in the quarter.
Webb and the Yellow Jackets will get right back to work in preparation for their road game at Grace Baptist Academy next week.
“We’ve got to get better defensively,” Webb said.
South Pittsburg 13 29 20 7 – 69
Lookout Valley 14 6 7 0 – 27
SP – Demetric Johnson 7 run (Chase Frame kick), 6:16
LV – Vann Scribner 52 run (Magdaleno Hernandez kick), 5:03
SP – Johnson 14 run (kick failed), 3:35
LV – Toney Summerow 77 kickoff return (Hernandez kick), 3:22
SP – Johnson 73 run (Corbin Hale run), 11:47
LV – Summerow 6 run (kick failed), 3:35
SP – Hale 57 run (Frame kick), 7:38
SP – Jauan Lankford 43 run (Frame kick), 3:33
SP – Johnson 74 run (Frame kick), 1:14
LV – V. Scribner 2 run (Hernandez kick), 8:543
SP – Johnson 22 run (Frame kick), 8:20
SP – Johnson 49 run (pass failed), 5:24
SP – Khalil Mitchell 39 run (kick failed), 2:32
SP – Anthony Sellers 36 run (Frame kick), 9:20
First Downs 21 13
Rushes-Yds. 45-672 36-190
Passing Yds. 0 80
Com.-Att.-Int. 0-2-0 6-10-0
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 1-1
Punts.-Avg. 1-29 5-46.4
Penalties-Yds. 3-35 5-31
RUSHING — South Pittsburg: Demetric Johnson 14-308, Corbin Hale 10-125, Jauan Lankford 6-105, Kahlil Mitchell 6-61, Anthony Sellers 4-59, Quinn Beasley 3-9, Corbin Fitzgerald 1-6, Team 1-minus 1; Lookout Valley: Vann Scribner 11-97, Jamal Jones 16-87, Toney Summerow 2-7, No. 1 2-6, Jaleyn Wynn 4-0, Evan Walker 1-minus 7.
PASSING — South Pittsburg: Jake Stone 0-2-0 0; Lookout Valley: V. Scribner 6-8-0 80, Walker 0-1-0 0, No. 3 0-0-0 0.
RECEIVING — South Pittsburg: None; Lookout Valley: Summerow 3-45, No. 3 2-30, No. 1 1-5.
Contact Larry Fleming at email@example.com