Amateur football: Huskerz win second straight title
WORTHINGTON -- Two seasons in the Southern Plains Football League and two SPFL championships. It's rare to see such perfection in any league, in any sport. The Southwest Huskerz accomplished another goal in their dominating 2015 amateur football ...
WORTHINGTON - Two seasons in the Southern Plains Football League and two SPFL championships.
It’s rare to see such perfection in any league, in any sport. The Southwest Huskerz accomplished another goal in their dominating 2015 amateur football season Saturday night with a 24-7 league championship victory over the South Central Hawgs. The Huskerz own a 10-0 record after beating three league playoff opponents by a combined score of 172-13.
Saturday’s win wasn’t quite so easy, however. The Hawgs, who Southwest beat 39-7 in last year’s championship game and 35-13 in this year’s regular season, used a spread offense to blunt the Huskerz’ defensive power and stymie the dangerous Southwest offense in a scoreless first quarter.
But the Huskerz outscored South Central 18-0 in the second quarter and maintained their edge in the second half. Darieon Smith, who ran roughshod over the league during the season, recovered from a slow start to spearhead the offense. Defensively, Trey Diggs intercepted three passes including one for a fourth quarter touchdown, and he also ran one in on offense.
One of the Huskerz’ co-captains on defense, linebacker-defensive lineman Demetrius Washington led a Huskerz defense that kept South Central off the scoreboard until inside the final minute of the fourth quarter.
“To come back and win again … I might retire this year, so it means a lot,” he said moments after his head coach, Ken McCuen, was handed the championship trophy. Washington, who said he was proud to win a championship on Trojan Field after playing there with the Minnesota West Bluejays, said he’s thinking about going into coaching high school and youth soccer in Sioux Falls, S.D. On Saturday, he explained that his Huskerz coaches and his teammates know exactly how to prepare for games - and it paid off big-time this year.
“We go in motivated with a chip on our shoulder. We take it one game at a time,” Washington said. “We know what the next person next to you is doing. It’s like a bunch of twins.”
Southwest’s family mentality has been a cohesive factor that paid dividends week in and week out, said McCuen.
“I’m so humbled about my team,” he gushed. “I love ‘em. I told them when we walk off this field they’re going to remember this family.”
McCuen promised that, one way or another, the Huskerz will find a way to travel to Florida in January to play in the national amateur football championship game - an opportunity that evaded them last year. The team will hold some indoor practices to get ready for what will be a title game on artificial turf.
Slow start, solid middle
In Saturday’s showdown with the Hawgs, neither team was able to generate offensive traction in the first quarter. South Central was determined to pass, but the Southwest pass rush made passing next to impossible. The Huskerz tried to get the powerful and elusive Smith into the flow early, but the Hawg defense keyed on him and stopped him numerous times behind the line.
Finally, with 11:01 remaining on the second quarter clock, Smith started inside and broke it right, racing down the sideline on a 28-yard touchdown scamper. Less than three minutes later Diggs scored on a 10-yard run.
Both conversions failed, but the Huskerz led 12-0, then tacked on another touchdown with 24 seconds remaining in the half when Cole Reed intercepted a pass and carried it into the end zone from 72 yards away. The score was a backbreaker for the Hawgs. It occurred one play after Southwest was whistled for a controversial unnecessary roughness penalty on a pass play that moved the football deep in its own territory.
The Hawgs had a good scoring opportunity go awry in the third quarter when they fumbled the football away to Southwest’s Jay Miller around the Huskerz 10-yard line. Early in the fourth quarter they again moved on the Huskerz but faltered at the 30.
Hard running by Smith and a long pass from quarterback Jordan Larson to Jarred Kinley pushed Southwest to South Central’s 10-yard line later in the fourth quarter. The drive stalled, but not long after that Diggs’ 55-yard interception return put Southwest up 24-0 with three minutes remaining.
South Central averted the shutout on a 17-yard pass to Storm Soto with 40 seconds left.
A team effort
“Offensively we sputtered,” McCuen said after the game. “But they brought a different wrinkle to what we thought they were going to do. They brought a lot of heat … But we kept running the ball, so it didn’t matter what they wanted to do. We kept at it and hit some home runs. Defensively, I can’t say enough.”
“It’s a little different than last year,” Larson said. “This year we came out a more connected group. It’s just a team effort. We got the best coaches, we got the best players, and we got the best fans. Every player has that mentality that you’re better than the one in front of you.”
Washington may have summed it up best.
“Big players make big plays,” he said.
SCentral 0 0 0 7 - 7
SWest 0 18 0 6 - 24