By BONITTA BEST
CHAPEL HILL – It’s an old and worn-out cliché: The final score is not indicative of a competitive game.
The scoreboard reads Southern 48, East Chapel Hill 26, but it doesn’t tell how hard a depleted Wildcats team fought till the clock said 0:00.
Still, it was the Spartans who overcame a sluggish and lackadaisical first half to win their fourth straight game – all in the PAC-6 conference.
Southern’s lack of attention span, coach Adrian Jones said, can be attributed to one thing: next Friday’s matchup with first-place Northern Durham.
“They definitely were [looking ahead],” he said. “They came out flat, and I told them they can’t take this team for granted. We’ve got to come out ready to play week after week.
In the first half, the Wildcats gave as good as they got.
With Southern leading 21-12 with 8:05 left in the second quarter and seemingly on its way to an easy victory, ECH didn’t panic. The Wildcats promptly drove down field from their own 26 and sealed the deal on a 10-yard pass from quarterback Jackson Boyer to Alex Moore.
After holding the Spartans on downs, ECH needed just one play – or rather running back Jordan Barkley – to take the lead. Barkley rumbled through the middle for 60 yards for a 26-21 score with 2:52 left in the half.
The Wildcats’ defense then got into the act. After Southern drove down to the ECH 5 yard line, the defense stopped running back Jamal Bullock at the 2 as time ran out.
But in the second it was all Southern who racked up 664 yards of total offense (232 passing, 432 rushing.)
Bullock gave Southern back the lead on the first play of the third quarter with a 55-yard TD scramble. Akeem Judd increased the Spartans lead with a 20-yard run.
The Wildcats were dealt another blow when Barkley went down with a knee injury with 9:02 left in game. He had rushed for 165 yards and a touchdown.
“I am pleased with our kids effort in the first half,” ECH coach Bill Renner said. “They just wore us down in the second, but as long as we keep fighting, I’m proud."