Dutch Fork sophomore running back Matt Colburn has spent much of the season as the backup to senior Trey Gregg, but Colburn was given his chance last week after Gregg went down with an injury.
It would be a gross understatement to say he has made the most of his opportunity.
A week after rushing for 400 yards and four touchdowns, Colburn pounded his way to 226 yards and three scores Friday night to help the Silver Foxes claim the Region 5-4A region championship with a 28-21 victory over North Augusta. Dutch Fork likely will earn a No. 1 seed in the Class 4A Division I playoffs when the brackets are released today.
“The opportunity came, and I just made the most of it,” Colburn said. “All my hard work and weight training I did, I tried to put it in another gear when I had a chance. My team was relying on me, and I wanted to make the best out of it. ... It helps to have that big offensive line in front of me.”
Colburn’s running made the difference. He had 18 carries for 77 yards at the half but tallied 23 carries for 149 yards after the break.
Dutch Fork (8-3, 5-0) ran 32 plays in the second half, and Colburn touched it on 24. Two of the plays were to take a knee to run out the clock after they recovered the North Augusta onside kick with 59 seconds remaining.
“He maybe didn’t run it as well tonight as last week, but he ran hard,” Dutch Fork coach Tom Knotts said. “I had no idea he had 226 yards, so that shows what I know. My hat’s off to him and the offensive line. They did what they were supposed to do and pounded them good.”
Leading 14-7 early in the fourth quarter, Colburn carried nine times on a 12-play, 79-yard drive that consumed 5:30 before he scampered in from 7 yards out to make it a two-possession game.
Nearly every one of those nine carries were a counter play to the right.
“The linemen kept saying we could run the ball, so we said, well, let’s do it,” Knotts said. “We had all these fancy passes in, and I like to mix it up a little bit, but we were pounding them really good, so we went with it.”
North Augusta (8-3, 4-1) got its offense on track on the next series. They took 1:12 off the clock and scored on a 47-yard pass from Trib Reece to Trey Morgan to again make it a one-possession game.
But Colburn answered the bell again and carried it six times on a seven-play, 62-yard drive. He bolted free up the middle on a fourth-and-3 from the 23-yard line to go into the end zone and stretch the lead to 14 points with 2:14 remaining.
In the game’s final two drives, Colburn had 15 carries for 115 yards.
“We thought we could stop the counter play,” North Augusta coach Dan Pippen said. “We worked on it and did a decent job in the first half, but coach Knotts has won a bunch of games for a reason. They found something they liked and stuck with it.”
Pippen was disappointed in his team’s play with so much on the line. They had uncharacteristic penalties at crucial times and were 1-of-9 on third downs and 1-of-3 on fourth downs. Add to that the fact that Dutch Fork dominated time of possession — holding the ball for 32:33 while the Yellow Jackets on had it for 15:27.
“We’ve been in big games. I don’t have any excuses,” Pippen said. “That’s a very good football team but I have to do a better job of coaching. The kids played hard. This was on me.”
Dutch Fork has won six in a row after playing a tough non-region schedule that included Goose Creek and Dorman. They were 2-3 after the loss to the Gators but have rebounded well.
“We played that early season schedule for this right here,” Knotts said. “That’s a good football team with a lot of speed. They will do well in the playoffs and we feel fortunate to have won. We feel our quality of our opponents helped us at this point of the season.”
Both teams will find out their playoff seeding and opponent today.
DF - Jordan Berry 6 run (Tyler Bass kick) 3:42
DF – Matt Colburn 7 run (Bass kick) 9:50
NA – Trey Morgan 37 run (Dylan Davis kick) 6:57
DF – Colburn 7 run (Bass kick) 6:48
NA – Trey Morgan 47 pass from Trib Reece (Davis kick) 5:36
DF – Colburn 23 run (Bass kick) 2:14
NA – DeVonte Pressley 40 pass from Reece (Davis kick) 0:59