Shelby rolled into “Football City USA” sporting a 26-game winning streak, but aware of the task it faced against nationally-ranked South Pointe.
The Golden Lions held their own, but ultimately a strong Stallion defense was too much, as South Pointe ended the streak with a 25-0 win at home.
Shelby’s defense, led by nationally-ranked senior linebacker Dax Hollifield, confused South pointe’s high-powered offense for much of the game. The Stallions managed 13 points in the first half on two lightning-fast drives, but were held to three punts, a missed field goal and a fumble.
South Pointe quarterback Derion Kendrick’s ability to escape the pocket helped the Stallions on several explosive plays throughout the game, turning would-be quarterback hurries into deep completions.
“It’s the big plays,” Hollifield said of the Stallion offense. “They make big plays. I thought up front we played great. It’s just [Derion Kendrick] will scramble around and throw a 70-yard bomb. That’s what kills you. We had a couple busted coverages and that’s what they scored off of.”
Shelby tried to slow the game and methodically drive the ball down the field. The Golden Lions’ opening drive wet 12 plays before they were stopped on downs at the South Pointe 22.
On their second drive, the Stallions opened the scoring on Joe Ervin’s 15-yard scamper that directly followed a 45-yard bomb to Steven Gilmore Jr. The drive lasted just 1:58.
Shelby continued to pound away, but the South Pointe defense started to strengthen late in the first quarter. Senior defensive end Eli Adams picked up his first of four sacks on a third down, forcing a punt.
The defensive battle continued into the second quarter, as each team committed its only true turnover of the game on back-to-back plays. Late in the half, South Pointe engineered a perfect 2-minute drill that culminated with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Kendrick to Gilmore with 26 seconds left.
Shelby was able to get into field goal range, but the 47-yard attempt went wide left and the Stallions took a 13-0 lead into the half.
To open the second half, Shelby went on its second double-digit play drive of the game, but the Stallions forced an incompletion on fourth down, ending the 18-play drive at the South Pointe 32.
South Pointe countered with a 68-yard strike from Kendrick to Ty Good to extend its lead to 19-0. The sequence was a microcosm of the game.
South Pointe’s offense could not consistently move the ball, but some good special teams play kept the field position battle in the Stallions’ favor until Kendrick could find an open receiver streaking down the field.
The Stallions scored their final touchdown on another deep connection between Kendrick and Gilmore, who fumbled at the 1-yard line, but recovered in the end zone for a touchdown and 25-0 lead.
South Pointe enters Region 4A-III play undefeated and the clear favorites to win the title. The Stallions have the looks of a team that can run the table and win a fourth-straight state championship. After back-to-back wins over out-of-state powerhouses, South Pointe has to be feeling good about its season.