With a chance at perfection, Dutch Fork wasn’t going to be denied.
Reese Nichols threw for 293 yards and two TDs, and the defense recorded several crucial stops in the second half to defeat Boiling Springs, 28-21, on Saturday in the Class 5A state championship at Williams-Brice Stadium.
It was Dutch Fork’s second state title and capped a 15-0 season, its first perfect season in school history. The Silver Foxes are the first Midlands team to go 15-0 since Camden won the 2001 Class 3A state championship.
“This game was like our whole season. … Show some character and find a way to win,” Dutch Fork coach Tom Knotts said. “This is a special group of kids right here. We are happy to be the first 15-0 team in school history and first champion in 5A. We beat a good football team.”
The championship was the ninth of Knotts’ career. He won seven in North Carolina and two with the Silver Foxes. Dutch Fork has made it to the championship game in four of the past five seasons.
Like it has at times this season, Dutch Fork made Knotts sweat things out, this time to the final seconds of the clock. The Silver Foxes stopped Boiling Springs’ K.J. Rodgers by a few inches on fourth-and-1 at the 40-yard line with 1:15 to seal the victory.
That was one of several big defensive plays by the Silver Foxes defense in the game. On Boiling Springs’ first drive of game, linebacker Taylor Wiggins picked off Mason Streater on the 2-yard line.
In the fourth quarter, Dutch Fork’s defense stopped the Bulldogs on the Silver Foxes’ 15-yard line.
“There was some nervousness,” Dutch Fork lineman Malik Sumter said. “But the hard work paid off since the loss to Dorman in the playoffs last year. It’s been a long offseason, but it is the greatest feeling ever.”
“We knew coming into the game it was going to hard game, so we were ready for a dogfight,” Dutch Fork receiver Bobby Irby said.
Dutch Fork got another big effort from three of its top players, Nichols, freshman running back Ron Hoff and Irby. Nichols threw a pair of first-half touchdown passes, one to Irby and a 62-yarder to Hoff to put them up 21-7 with 11:06 in the first half.
Hoff, who finished with 77 yards, made it 28-14 on a 5-yard run with 5:35 left in the third quarter to cap an 11-play, 70-yard drive.
Irby finished with six catches for 121 yards, his eighth 100-yard game of the season.
Streater, a South Carolina baseball commit, kept the Bulldogs in the game with big plays in the running and passing game. He finished with 324 yards passing and two TDs and also ran for 59 yards.
Streater hit Michael Bollinger on a 16-yard pass with 6:51 left to get the Bulldogs within 28-21.
HOW THEY SCORED
DF – Hoff 4 run (Williams kick), 7:16
DF – Irby 9 pass from Nichols (Williams kick), 2:57
BS – Bollinger 2 pass from Streater (Atkins kick), 11:23
DF – Hoff 62 pass from Nichols (Williams kick), 11:06
BS – Rodgers 1 run (Atkins kick), 8:58
DF – Hoff 5 run (Williams kick), 3:40
BS – Bollinger 16 pass from Streater (Atkins kick), 6:51
Rushing: BS: Streater 12-59, Rodgers 14-38, Moore 2-1. DF: Hoff 17-77, Nichols 9-53, Cannon 1-2
Passing: BS: Streater 25-31-1 324. DF: Nichols 15-26-1 293
Receiving: BS: Brown 11-144, Rodgers 6-50, Bollinger 5-81, Moore 2-31, Desor 1-8. DF: Irby 6-121, Hoff 2-65, Cannon 2-48, Connor 3-32, Hacklen 2-27