By Al Stilley
On their best start since 2014, Southport takes a 3-0 record into its annual homecoming game.
The Cardinals dominated Roncalli and Perry Meridian before upsetting Columbus North, 10-7, on Colbi Cocherell’s field goal in overtime. Southport faces talented 2A Gibson Southern in a battle of unbeatens at the Cardinals’ homecoming game Saturday at 2 p.m.
This is their best start under fourth-year coach Brandon Winters who has never had a losing season at the helm.
“We are definitely moving in the right direction,” Winters said after practice Monday. “We’re playing a different style on both sides of the ball, and I think the kids are seeing the benefit of their hard work and the reps they are getting.”
Defensively, the Cardinals are underclass-dominated up front, but have experience in the defensive backfield where senior Jordan Tweedy roams. Tweedy has three interceptions in three games this season, including one at Columbus North.
“I think we are more motivated to make plays,” Tweedy said of the Cardinals defense. “We get more excited when we do make plays, and that excitement pushes this team. And it seems we have developed a ‘killer’ mentality.”
Defensively, Anthony Helton and Ben Morlan led the way up front against Columbus North. Helton earned the team’s “player of the game” honor with two tackles for losses and two sacks. Ben Morlan bolstered the defensive line by fighting off many of the Bulldogs double-team blocks.
Senior quarterback Ryan Lezon scored early on a 30-yard touchdown run but could not find the goal line again. The opportunistic Cardinals recovered a Bulldog fumble in overtime that led to the game-winning field goal.
“Offensively we had a hard time getting anything going,” Winters said. “A lot of our drives ended when we mostly shot ourselves in the foot. We were fortunate to come out on top without really moving the ball on offense. We kept field position in our favor for most of the game.”
The Cardinals face high-powered Gibson Southern that averages 59.7 points per game against three 2A opponents. The Titans are averaging 437 yards total offense this season. Sophomore quarterback Brady Allen has completed over 75 percent of his passes, including 20 touchdowns.
The Titans will face a Southport team that wants to reward its fans with a homecoming win.
For the first time, the Cardinals will be able to march Friday evening in the annual homecoming parade.
“We want them to be a part of the homecoming fun Friday,” Winters said. “But then we want them focused on the game.”
Tweedy agrees with the homecoming theme, “Oh the places Cards will go.”
“We can go pretty far,” Tweedy said. “I think it depends on our focus for the rest of the season and the time we put in to improve. We can have a special season.”