COLUMBIA – Clayton Coulter, Connor Holden and their buddies have been playing together since middle school.
“That’s when it all started,” Coulter said. “Me and Holden, we’d go throw in the yard all the time, play some pickup football out there.”
Southside Christian School’s Coulter and Holden were throwing and catching again Saturday, except they were performing at Charles W. Johnson Stadium on the campus of Benedict College, and the prize was the Class A Division I state championship.
With Coulter passing for 153 yards and three touchdowns and Quintyn Reeder rushing for 228 yards and two touchdowns, Southside Christian won its first state title by routing Allendale-Fairfax 42-8.
“This is exactly what we dreamed of,” Coulter said.
Southside Christian had never won a playoff game in its previous nine varsity seasons, but the Sabres averaged 54 points in four victories, and Coulter and company made it look as though they were still in the back yard.
“We talked all week about all the distractions, all the different stuff that’s going to come up, staying focused, staying disciplined, keep doing what we’ve been doing, and I’ll tell you what, they did,” SCS coach Jason Kaiser said.
“They seemed very focused when we first came out. No jitters. Same stuff. Same routine. It’s been the same stuff all year, especially in the playoffs. We’ve been focused every week, and that’s the result.”
Coulter ran for 27 yards on the first play from scrimmage and capped the first possession of the game with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Holden.
The next time the Sabres had the ball, Coulter hit Jon Taylor for 25 yards on first down and capped a four-play, 55-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Neal Lee.
It was 14-0 less than six minutes into the game, and the tone had been set.
Meanwhile, Southside Christian’s defense was busy shutting down Allendale-Fairfax’s normally productive rushing attack, limiting the Tigers to 101 rushing yards through three quarters, 154 in all and 187 total yards.
“The defensive coaches put us in the right positions to make us successful, and I think that plays a huge part in it,” said SCS senior linebacker Josh Tolbert.
“The past couple games, we’ve really been focusing on filling our gaps and holding up our blocks,” senior defensive tackle Shawn Hall said. “Even though we’re not getting into the backfield, we’re just maintaining our positioning and letting everyone fill and they’ll get the ball.”
Coulter scored on a 3-yard run and Reeder on an 11-yard run before halftime, giving Southside Christian a 28-0 lead.
A-F took advantage of the Sabres’ only turnover to score midway through the third quarter on a 1-yard run by Kenny Smith, and Smith added a two-point conversion run, making it 28-8.
But Reeder, who had 72 yards rushing in the first half, helped SCS pull away. His 40-yard run set up Coulter’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Davis Beville.
Then Reeder, who had touchdown runs of at least 90 yards in each of the last two SCS victories, burst through for a 79-yard scoring dash with 2:15 remaining.
Jonathan Kissenberth made the last of his six point-after kicks for the Sabres, who won their 13th consecutive game after a season-opening loss to Travelers Rest.
“We put in the work in practice, and it’s the greatest moment of my life,” said Hall. “The feeling that’s going through my veins, it’s phenomenal.”