SAVANNAH -- Savannah Christian returned the favor to Miller County.
One year after the Pirates eliminated the Raiders in the second round on their home turf, Savannah Christian welcomed Miller to its field pulled off a 28-13 victory in the GHSA Class A second-round playoff game on Friday.
"I think it was a great year," Miller County coach Frank Killingsworth said. "We had three starters coming back on defense, four on offense. We put together a 9-3 season. Which many teams all over state wish they had a 9-3 season. I'm so proud of our kids, they came out and played hard. We ended up losing to a good football team."
SCPS (12-0, ranked No. 2 in Class A) will play Lincoln County next week.
At halftime, the Pirates felt like they could have been moving into the state quarterfinals for the second consecutive season. Two QB sneaks by Caleb Cunningham in the first half had Monroe up 13-7 at halftime, but the Raiders dominated the second half.
SCPS drove 65 yards on its opening possession of the third quarter, finished by a 4-yard keeper by quarterback Harrison Curry. After carrying the ball only twice in the first half, Curry operated the Raiders' triple-option flawlessly and kept the ball eight times for 54 yards on the drive.
"(Miller County) changed their reads a little bit and they started coming down more on the fullback hard and taking away (Chris) Barnwell," said Curry who finished with 100 yards on 20 carries. "I was able to get on the outside."
Miller County's first play of the following possession saw the ball pop loose from running back Josh Rhaymes and into the hands of SCPS sophomore defensive lineman DeAngelo Brown who rumbled about 10 yards down to the Pirate 3-yard line.
On the next play Curry scored his second touchdown in 25 seconds and the Raiders held a 21-13 lead.
"We dug a hole for ourselves," Killingsworth said. "They scored another one, we just couldn't get the ball back the second half and get anything established. They got a very good football team. We got a very good football team, too. But it just didn't go our way."
Holding an eight-point lead would prove more than enough for the Raider defense. SCPS held Miller County to just 14 yards of offense and one first down in the second half.
Less than three minutes into the fourth quarter, SCPS senior running back Chris Barnwell scored his second touchdown of the night on a 1-yard dive into the end zone.
"It feels great," said Barnwell who finished with 114 yards on 29 carries. "All the hard work and determination we've had since the summer, it took us a year to get back to this point paid off."
Big plays helped the Miller County offense take the lead into halftime.
On the game's opening possession, the Pirates connected on passes of 28 and 21 yards to march down to the Raider 1-yard line. That's when quarterback Caleb Cunningham scored on a 1-yard sneak.
SCPS answered in the second quarter. Aided by a pair of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties against Miller County, the Raiders moved 65 yards on 10 plays, capped by a 2-yard run by Barnwell. Timothy McCarthy's point after tied the game at 7.
Late in the first half, on fourth down and eight yards to go at the SCPS 40-yard line, Miller County faked a punt that resulted in a first-down conversion. On next play Rahymes ran off the left tackle and broke loose for a 31-yard gain, getting tripped up at the Raider 1-yard line. Cunningham scored on another 1-yard sneak to help the Pirates take a 13-7 lead into halftime.
Savannah Christian totaled just 86 yards in the first half, 78 of which came via the rush. Barnwell had 37 yards at intermission.
Miller County ran the ball for 50 yards in the first half, but passed for 70 more for 120 total yards in the opening two quarters.
"We thought we played well enough in the first half," Killingsworth said. "We came out in the second half thought and had a good chance to win the ballgame. It is a very difficult thing to do: drive all the way to the other side of the state, get out and play in a hostile environment."