ROWLAND — It’ll be at least another week before first-year coach Quincy Johnson gets a look at his South Robeson basketball team.
That’s because most of his players, for the first time in 11 years, will still be practicing during Thanksgiving week in the 1A football playoffs.
“It’s such a change from where we used to be,” said Michael Smith, a defensive back who started on the Mustangs’ 0-10 team in 2011. “We’ve got great coaches and players that work hard every day. We’ve came out and given 100 percent every game with a lot of effort and it shows.”
South Robeson escaped a sluggish first half and much like it has done throughout the season, dominated its opposition with a relentess ground-and-pound Friday night during a 42-22 second-round win over West Columbus.
The victory sets up next week’s West semifinal at top-seeded Albemarle, a matchup South Robeson’s senior class — whom hadn’t won a playoff game prior to this season — has been savoring since last November.
“We’ve gone through a lot of days at practice for this, I’m talking dark practices until we can’t give no more,” veteran linebacker Tyler Roller said. “We’ve had to work hard, eat right, stay in the weight room, stay hydrated … all those little things lead to this.”
Andrew Hill’s fourth 200-yard effort of the season helped the Mustangs overcome a disastrous first half on special teams during which West Columbus speedster Andrew Evans returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.
Hill’s 37-yard touchdown run through the middle of the secondary with 4:10 left in the third quarter — one of the three scoring scampers for Robeson County’s leading rusher in the contest — gave the Mustangs some breathing room they desperately needed.
South Robeson (8-5) didn’t take its first lead until the opening kickoff of the second half after Juan Ellerbe darted his way past defenders and followed his blockers to the pylon on a 65-yard return for a score.
South Robeson’s bash brothers of Hill and Ellerbe combined for 307 yards rushing and four touchdowns.
“We just came out and took it to them,” Hill said. “We played with energy. We had to.”
West Columbus (3-10) took a 16-6 lead in the second quarter when Adrian Buie went 62 yards on a fullback dive. South Robeson coach Stephen Roberson threw his arms up in disgust and that was the last time the Mustangs allowed a play of 10 or more yards the rest of the game.
South Robeson limited the Vikings to less than 35 total yards in the second half.
“Our first-half defense wasn’t bad, but special teams killed us with the two kickoff returns and that’s my fault as the head coach,” Roberson said. “Other than that, I thought we played solid defense the entire game and played well when we got the lead.”
The Mustangs rushed for nearly 200 yards over the opening 24 minutes but poor angles on the defensive side of the football led to an early 10-point hole. Kalvis Chavis’ 2-yard touchdown plunge on 4th-and-goal with four minutes left in the first half ended the Vikings’ momentum and pulled the Mustangs to within striking distance to salvage a treacherous first two quarters.
“We had started hurting them on the edges, so they flanked a lot of people out there and we called the sneak,” Roberson said. “It was wide open. Kalvis isn’t a guy that looks for stats, but he’s steady and didn’t turn it over tonight. That’s what we ask of him.”
The Mustangs are familiar with next week’s opponent having lost at Albemarle in last season’s playoff opener, 63-0. Albemarle defeated Union Friday night, 62-21.
“Nobody’s forgotten a 63-0 halftime score and they could’ve probably beat us worse than that,” Roberson said. “This is a different team with different parts and we’re excited about the opportunity to go back to Albemarle.”
Reach staff writer Brad Crawford at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.
South Robeson 42, West Columbus 22
West Columbus 10 12 0 0 — 22
South Robeson 14 14 8 — 42
WC – Fred Evans 95 yd kickoff return (Tanner Daniels kick)
WC – Daniels 32 yd field goal
SR – Juan Ellerbe 14 yd run (run failed)
WC – Adrian Buie 62 yd run (kick failed)
SR – Andrew Hill 4 yd run (run failed)
WC – Evans 85 yd kickoff return (kick failed)
SR – Kalvis Chavis 2 yd run (Hill run)
SR – Ellerbe 65 yd kickoff return (run failed)
SR – Hill 27 yd run (Lee McCallum run)
SR – Hill 73 yd run (Angelo Brown run)
RUSHING: WC — Adrian Buie 5-70; Chris Thompson 19-51; Rostin Bromell 8-21; Tariq Dundy 2-8. SR — Andrew Hill 15-223; Juan Ellerbe 15-84; Lee McCallum 7-46; Michael Smith 2-16; Kalvis Chavis 8-15; Cedric Sinclair 1-7; Angelo Brown 1-2.
PASSING: WC — Degner Axelberg 1-6-0-0; Tanner Daniels 1-1-0-7. SR — Kalvis Chavis 1-7-0-15; Daquinn Lindsay 1-2-0-20.
RECEIVING: WC — Anthony Davis 1-7; Rostin Bromell 1-0. SR — Tyler Roller 1-20; Lee McCallum 1-15.
RECORDS: West Columbus 3-10; South Robeson 8-5.