WINNSBORO - Anyway you want to spin it, Fairfield Central secured the Region 4-3A title with a 19-10 victory against Chapin on Friday at E.K. McLendon Stadium.
The Griffins (7-3) finished in a first-place tie with Chester in the final standings, but they earned the region's No. 1 playoff seed thanks to their win against Chester in the first week of the region campaign.
It is Fairfield Central's sixth first-place region finish, outright or shared, since its first crown in 1996.
The Griffins will play host to Region 3's No. 4 seed in the first round of nest week's playoffs.
Injury-plagued Chapin has lost three games in a row after getting off to a 7-0 under new coach Scott Earley. The Eagles open the playoffs as a No. 4 seed on the road against the Region 3 champion.
"I'll be honest, winning the region championship this year after losing 24 seniors is a surprise," Griffins coach Reggie Kennedy said.
"But they been an overachieving group all season and made progress each and every week to get here. We'll enjoy this tonight, but our focus starting tomorrow is getting ready for the playoffs.
The Griffins had no luck in the passing game early. Quarterback Danny Miller threw two interceptions in the first half and had a sure touchdown pass dropped. That's when FC turn its attention to the ground game, which netted 334 yards and three touchdowns.
Joseph Morgan led the way with 213 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries. Morgan's 58-yard scoring run with 2:21 to go in the first quarter pulled FC within 7-6, and his 1-yard run late in the third quarter capped a 12-play, 85-yard scoring march that put the Griffins ahead for good at 12-10.
Fairfield Central put the game away with a 10-play, 55-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter. Greg Gadsden's 8-yard touchdown run was the final piece to the puzzle.
"We had it going on the ground tonight," said Kennedy.
"We have three good backs, but the real reason we were so successful was the work by the guys on the line. We just need to cut down on the mistakes we made tonight - the turnovers and penalties."
Chapin's lone touchdown came on a 5-yard interception return by Michael Habat with 7:06 remaining in the first quarter. Ryan Elliott's pressure and near sack prompted Miller to throw the ball to avoid a safety. Instead, it was a seven-point mistake.
"We knew we were going to have to win with defense," Eagles coach Scott Earley said.
"And Fairfield just wore us down in the second half."
Chapin 7 0 3 0 -10
Fairfield Central 6 0 6 7 -19
C- Michael Habat 5 interception return (Colden King kick), 7:06
FC- Joseph Morgan 58 run (run failed), 2:21
FC- Morgan 1 run (pass failed), 4:15
C- FG King 36, 0:34
FC- Greg Gadsden (NaJahwan McKinstry kick), 1:30
First downs 8 15
Rushing 24-61 56-334
Passing yards 119 22
Att-Com-Int 18-7-2 10-4-2
Fumbles-lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties 4-45 10-90
Punts 2-62 3-90
Rushing: C, Bickley 11-32, Frick 13-29. FC, Morgan 13-120, Gadsden 6-18, Curlee 0-0.
Passing: C, Frick 7-18-2-119. FC, Miller 4-10-2-22.
Receiving: C, Lowder 2-45, Pauling 3-58, Hood-Pettinger 2-16. FC, Alston 1-7, Young 1-(-5).