Deerfield completes 10-0 season with rout of Southland

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

AMERICUS -- There's something spreading around the area these days, and it's not caused by the suddenly cold weather.

The Albany State football team has it so far, as do the boys on the Westwood team in Camilla.

And now Deerfield-Windsor has it, along with a bad case of playoff fever.

It's called perfection-itis.

The Knights defeated Southland, 40-7, Friday night to cap a perfect regular season for the first time in almost two decades in the season finale for both teams.

"It's the one accomplishment every team wants, to be perfect during the regular season," said running back Quentin Heard, who finished with 18 carries for 169 yards and accounted for 3 TDs. "For us, we play as a team, we win as a team, so it's a huge, huge accomplishment."

It's the third time DWS, ranked No. 1 in the GISA Class AAA Coaches Poll, has been 10-0. The last time was in 1992, while the first was in 1979.

"It's great. This bunch has gone out and played hard every week," head coach Allen Lowe said. "We're glad to finish it off, but now the fun really begins."

The Knights (10-0 overall, 8-0 in Region 2-IAAA) already clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs last week in a win against Westfield and will play No. 4-seed Griffin Christian in the first round, but they had to close out Friday's victory without star player Davis Moore, who is nursing a hip pointer injury.

But the DWS defense showed why it's The Herald's reigning "Player of the Week," accounting for five sacks.

"We have a pretty good bunch over there," Lowe said. "They like to be focused on defense and that helps you out, that's for sure."

The offense didn't do too bad, either, as quarterback Banks Kinslow got the scoring started early on a 21-yard touchdown pass to Walker Lanier with 8:56 left in the first after Gaughf Ivey intercepted Southland QB Jake Hood on the third play of the game.

Then, after strong defensive stands from both sides, the Knights made it 9-0 on Trey Puckett's 30-yard field goal with 9:23 left in the second.

The Heard Show started shortly after that when the junior running back scored on a 14-yard run after a pitch from Kinslow with 9:23 left in the second quarter, then again on a 62-yard run along the left baseline with just under a minute to go in the half.

"When it was (only) 9-0, I (felt like) it was a hard, well-played football game," Southland head coach Tim Goodin said. "Then (Deerfield's) numbers wore us down."

Heard finished the first half with 14 carries for 158 yards for the Knights, who led, 23-0, at the break, while the Raiders only had 46 total yards -- 28 on rushing, 18 on passing.

In the third, after Puckett hit a 42-yard field goal early in the frame, then Heard ran back an interception 9 yards for a score with 2:18 left to make it 33-0 Deerfield.

The Raiders (5-6, 3-5) finally got on the board shortly after that as time expired on Kevin Greene's 18-yard run to his left.

But the Knights put the game away with J.D. Cook's 3-yard TD run with 9:44 left to make it 40-7 Deerfield and complete the scoring -- and Southland's season.

"We had an up-and-down year. We're a young team and did some good things and did some bad things, so we're going to try to build on the good and go from there," said Goodin, whose team was already eliminated from the playoffs before Friday. "You always hate to lose any of the (seniors, though). It's hard to lose all of them, that's always the case. But we'll have another crop next year."

Deerfield's season, on the other hand, is very much alive, and the Knights are as confident as ever about making a run once again in the playoffs. DWS won the state title in 2008, then finished runner-up last year.

"We feel like we can compete. We're playing good, we're rolling right now, so we're confident," said Kinslow, who finished with 103 yards passing. "It's great to have the undefeated regular season, but our main goal now is to finish it out and get that state championship ring. It's great if you (go unbeaten) in the regular season, but in the end, it means nothing if you don't finish it off, because no one's going to remember that."