Southside beats rival Selma for first time since 2004

Published 2:21 am Saturday, August 27, 2016

Southside’s Malik Johnson runs around the end during Friday night's game versus Selma.  --Daniel Evans

Southside’s Malik Johnson runs around the end during Friday night’s game versus Selma. –Daniel Evans

After 11 straight losses, Southside finally found the right formula to defeat rival Selma — make the game ugly. Real ugly.

Southside overcame seven turnovers to defeat Selma 24-18 Friday night at Memorial Stadium, ending a losing streak that dated back to 2004. Wide receiver DeQuan Johnson scored the game-winning touchdown on a screen pass in overtime and sent the Panthers team into jubilation. Southside head coach Daniel Flowers ran to midfield and fell to his knees, while the Panthers players dog piled Johnson in the end zone.

“This is a program changer,” Flowers said. “This win can change lives 20 years from now. When you’re sitting on the porch when you’re older, you can say you were on the team that ended the streak.”

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It’s probably fair to say neither team would’ve drawn it up the way it went.

Selma reached the Southside 21-yard line on nine different drives, but the Saints only scored twice in the red zone the entire game.

“I told the guys it’s not about the size… it’s all about this thing that beats in your chest,” Flowers said.

The Saints turned the ball over on their final two plays — an interception at the end of regulation that gave Southside a chance to win the game on one final play — and a fumble on the first play of overtime.

The Panthers got the ball next and needed just two plays. After a pass for Johnson was incomplete in the corner of the end zone, Flowers dialed up a middle screen. Johnson caught the pass from quarterback G’Neil Johnson and dove for the goal line, ending 11 years of frustration in the process.

Meanwhile, Selma was wondering what might’ve been.

DeQuan Johnson scored two early touchdowns — a 13-yard and 70-yard score —to put Southside ahead 12-0 in the first quarter, but after that Selma had taken back momentum.

The Saints marched the ball 40 yards to get back into the game. Brandon Hope capped the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run to pull Selma within 12-6 with 11:37 left in the second quarter.

At that point, the Saints had already had two drives stall inside the 22, and a third came early later in the quarter. Selma reached the Southside 4-yard line before illegal procedure penalties moved the ball back to the 19-yard line.

The Saints ended up turning the ball over on downs, a theme for the night.

The Panthers seemed to want to keep giving Selma chances to score though. Southside fumbled it right back when the ball tumbled to the ground on a double reverse.

Two plays later, Selma gave it right back on an interception by Kordez Ervin.

After a punt, the Saints again got into the red zone and managed to finish the drive this time. Hope scored on an 8-yard run to tie the game with 4:28 left in the second quarter. Neither team converted an extra point or two-point attempt all night.

The teams would trade turnovers before the half, but neither could take advantage.

Play in the third quarter quickly developed into a pattern — a Southside turnover and then Selma stopped on downs.

“We self imploded. We couldn’t finish on the goal line. We fumbled the ball, we jumped offside. We changed the snap count, got them to jump, got them to jump and then all of a sudden we got two straight penalties,” said Selma coach Keon Handley. “I’ve got to do a better job of holding our guys accountable and pushing them harder in practice and that’s going to be done this week.”

On its first drive of the second half, Selma reached the Southside 21 before turning the ball over on downs. After Southside’s next possession went nowhere, DeQuan Johnson’s punt was blocked by his own man — it hit a Panthers’ player in the back — and the Saints got the ball at the Southside 11.

After two encroachment penalties by the Panthers, Selma was the 3, but the Saints committed back-to-back false starts to move back to the 11.

Four downs later, another opportunity had been missed. Selma turned the ball over on downs — again.

On the next play, Southside responded with its fourth turnover of the night and Selma recovered at the Panthers 1-yard-line. Needing just one yard to take the lead, Selma again committed a false started penalty and ended up being stopped on a fourth-and-goal run at the 1-yard line.

After an exchange of punts, Southside again fumbled at its own 15-yard line. Another Selma false start contributed to another drive that went backwards and a turnover on downs.

Two plays later, Southside fumbled again and this time the Selma defense took matters into its own hands. Darius Thompson picked the ball up and ran 18 yards for a touchdown that gave the Saints an 18-12 lead with 9:29 left in the fourth quarter.

Down for the first time all night, the Panthers put together their first real drive in over two quarters.

G’Neil Johnson threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Keshawn Arrington, who rose above a Selma defender and ran into the end zone untouched to tie the game with 6:19 left.

A seventh Southside turnover on a double pass gave Selma the ball late, but the Saints gave it right back. Selma ran a pass from its own 16-yard line with 7.5 seconds left and Ervin was intercepted.

Southside took one shot at the end zone, but had to settle for overtime.

After Selma fumbled on the first play of overtime, Southside needed two plays and found Johnson to put the game away.

“Our kids stayed up the whole time,” Flowers said. “We wanted it the most. It’s like I told my kids, it’s not about who wants to win. It’s about who can’t stand to lose.”

Selma plays at Bessemer City next week while Southside hosts Prattville Christian.