Senior staff writer
Southport’s steadily improving defense came up with its best game of the year Saturday, just in time for the opening round of the state football tournament.
The Cardinals came up with several big defensive plays for a lopsided 43-13 victory over neighboring Franklin Central at Perry Stadium.
“It’s by far the best we’ve played defensively this year,” Southport coach Bill Peebles said. “We contained the run very well, and we made them earn it on long-yardage situations.”
Southport halted the Flashes twice on fourth-down situations in the first half. Lineman Sam Rust and the Cards’ defense pressured FC quarterback Cody Jacob into a hurried throw on fourth down in the first quarter, which led to the Cardinals’ second score.
Rust made his second big play late in the second quarter when intercepting a pass that had been tipped by teammate Kyle Williams on FC’s 4-yard line. The turnover led to a 20-yard field goal by Edgar Aleman four plays later for a 24-7 halftime lead. Eli Walton batted down a fourth-down pass that led to Southport’s final TD.
Southport’s defense held FC running back Kane Idele to 66 yards on 16 carries and came up with two interceptions. The Cards also covered a pooch kickoff on the 38 that went untouched by the Flashes.
Meanwhile, Southport quarterback Luke Johnston enjoyed a masterful night by completing 21-of-25 passes for 232 yards and four touchdowns. Basketball standout/wide receiver Paul Scruggs caught 10 passes for 102 yards and one touchdown.
“Luke knows where to go with the ball,” Peebles said. “He can deliver it very quickly and accurately, and the guys are catching it. Paul – by far – had his best game; he consistently caught the ball and gained many yards after the catch. He’s turned into a football player.”
Southport running backs Andrew Mappes gained 92 yards and a touchdown with backup Micah Walker coming in for most of the second half and running for 94 yards and one score.
Franklin Central finishes 3-6 under first-year coach Kevin Lewis, who took over a shaken program and produced renewed enthusiasm and a late-season three-game winning streak.
“I’m proud of what our kids and our staff accomplished; our senior class really laid the foundation for next year,” said Lewis who also heads the strength conditioning program. “The three wins in a row were really nice and it gave the kids a lot of confidence. Now our focus is on next year.”
Jacob completed 10-of-17 passes for 195 yards and one touchdown. Senior receiver Landon Arsenault caught four passes for 118 yards.