by Chris Hunt
The SouthLake Christian football team’s upset victory at Fayetteville Trinity Christian in the first round N.C. Independent School Athletic Association Division II state playoffs came much too easy. After allowing the No. 3 seed Crusaders an opening-drive touchdown, the No. 6 seed Eagles countered with a score of their own and cruised to a 48-15 win on Nov. 5.
The ease with which Remick and the Eagles moved the ball against Trinity Christian, a team that had won the last three 8-man NCISAA state championships before moving up to 11-man football this fall, shocked SouthLake coach Rich Landis.
SouthLake quarterback Sam Remick conducted a quick-tempo offense that wore out the Crusaders’ thin roster of 21 players. Remick amassed 417 total yards, throwing for three touchdowns and running for three scores. He connected with senior wide receiver Travis Hallman for seven catches for 156 yards and a touchdown.
“We were surprised by the final score,” said Landis. “We thought it would come down to the last minutes of the game, but they got winded earlier than I thought they would. We broke the huddle quick and got to the line of scrimmage quicker to control the tempo of the game.”
The Eagles’ first round victory was their first since 2007. SouthLake advanced to the NCISAA Division II semi-finals at No. 2 seed Westminster Catawba Christian (Nov. 11 at 7:30 p.m.), a team that rocked Christ School in the first round, 61-6. A trip to the Division II finals would be a first in SouthLake history, but before that can happen, the Eagles will have to do something it was unable to do earlier this season – beat Westminster.
In the season opener on August 20, a confident SouthLake squad was upended 45-0 by the Indians (10-1), who are led by Carolina Piedmont Football Conference Defensive Player of the Year Ian Brandt and all-conference running back Josh Parker. In their first meeting against the Eagles, Brant had six tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery to go along with four catches and two scores. Parker rushed 61 of the Indians’ 237 rushing yards on limited carries.
But in a way, that game was an early wake up call for the overconfident Eagles, who came into the game with their largest roster in the school’s brief history. Following the loss, SouthLake went on to win six of their next seven, falling short to only 2A public school powerhouse East Lincoln. Landis said he was proud that his team did not fold after the humbling season-opener and welcomes a second chance against Westminster.
“The motivation for this week is that we know that we didn’t play to our potential in the first game,” said Landis. “The last part of this season, we proved that we have the potential (to beat Westminster). I told our players that the first game is behind us and it’s a new season with four teams left.”
To exact revenge, the Eagles will have to somehow control Westminster’s thunderous rushing attack. Parker is averaging 143.6 yards per game and he torched Christ School for 255 yards and six touchdowns in the first round. The Eagles, who narrowly beat Christ School 27-20 on Oct. 8, will need to be ready for the Indian’s multiple rushing formations, and Landis said the best way to keep the ball out of Parker’s hands is for his team’s offense to maintain drives of its own.
“This game will be the battle of sustained drives,” said Landis. “They want to eat up the clock to keep our offense off the field. If our offense stays on the field and can take care of the ball, our defense will take care of the rest. We can’t have too many three-and-outs.”
Landis also hopes that the Indians show up for the semifinals with too much confidence, just like the Eagles did back in August. Thanks in some strange way to Westminster, SouthLake is a much different team this time around, but he doesn’t feel the need to warn the Indians.
“I hope they expect to see the same thing as last time,” said Landis. “That would be to our advantage.”