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Deerfield -- State Champs!!!

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Jordan Funderburk was standing on the 35-yard line this time, smiling like a kid who just got exactly what he wanted for Christmas.

Banks Kinslow was pumping his fist on the sidelines, high-fiving everybody who walked by.

And Davis Moore was in the middle of it all, picking up former Deerfield-Windsor star Michael Matthews for a bear hug, ruining his white shirt in the process with the mud Moore had accumulated on his jersey

throughout the game.

And it was all good, because the Knights had finished their season just like Matthews' previously-clean shirt.

Unblemished.

"I can't even describe it. This is the best feeling in the entire world. I'm, like, at a loss for words right now," said Funderburk, a senior who was on the DWS team that lost in the state championship game, 42-24, to George Walton last year. "This is a thousands times sweeter than the state championship we won two years ago. So much better. Losing it last year made us the team we were this year."

The perfect team.

DWS defeated Tattnall Square, 38-22, on Friday in the GISA AAA state title game and finished 13-0 for the first time in school history.

"It's hard to get back (to the state championship), but then to win all (the games) along the way makes it really special. This has been a great group of kids and they just found a way to believe in each other," said a Gatorade-drenched DWS head coach Allen Lowe, whose team was 3-11-1 against Tattnall before Friday. "We're excited about it. 13-0, but that will sink in later. It just feels great winning this one. It's about these kids, this year.

"It's a great accomplishment."

Indeed, and it was all thanks to strong play from the defense and a third-quarter surge.

The Knights' first two touchdowns -- both in the first quarter -- were actually set up by a pair of DWS fumble recoveries. Quentin Heard ran the opening score of the game in from 11 yards out after Matt Miller recovered a fumble at the 21-yard line, while the second came on a 41-yard pass from Kinslow to Michael Laslie to make it 14-0 with 5:12 left in the first after Funderburk's forced fumble.

"Coach Lowe has been amazing (all year). His play-calling and everything have (just been perfect)," said Moore, who finished with 13 carries for 70 yards and two TDs. "On that second score of the game -- when we went up 14-0 -- he actually said 'That's going to be a touchdown' on the next play. Stuff like that -- his confidence -- he instills it in us."

Tattnall got on the board early in the second, however, on quarterback John Rader's 1-yard sneak, and the score was 14-7 at halftime.

DWS, which now has 11 state crowns in school history after Friday's, only finished with 67 yards of total offense in the first half, but the Knights began heating up on a cold, rainy night at Webb Memorial Stadium in the third, starting with the star of the last game, Trey Puckett, and his 32-yard field goal. If not for Puckett, the Knights likely wouldn't even be on the field Friday after he kicked a game-winning 40-yard field goal to beat Mount de Sales, 30-27, one week ago in the state semis.

Deerfield then scored two more times in the next six minutes to make it a 31-7 game after two more fumble recoveries gave the team the ball at the 21-yard line and 17-yard line. The first was a 7-yard run by Moore and the second a 1-millimeter sneak by Kinslow.

"They turned it over (a bunch) of times and we were able to cash in on them," Lowe said. "In a game like this, you have to be able to take advantage of opportunities -- and we did that (Friday night)."

The Trojans (9-3) just wouldn't go away, however, and scored again on a 6-yard run by Rader with 10:01 left in the game.

But the Knights weren't done, either.

Moore answered with an 18-yard TD run two minutes later, but then Rader struck again with a 15-yard pass to Ryan Knapp to make the game 38-22 with 6:17 left. Rader, who came into the game with more than 1,000 yards on the ground, finished with 22 carries for 110 yards and 8-of-23 passing for 144 yards.

"We were just really confident (going into the second half). To be honest, we didn't think they would score on us again," Moore said. "Our secondary was a little vulnerable in the second half, but we didn't think we would put 38 (points) up, either."

And nobody thought the Knights, who last won it all in 2008, would get back to the state championship game this year, but they did -- and then some.

"You know, last year, we were out (on the field) and bawling our eyes out and didn't know what to do," Moore said. "To turn around like we did and be in this position now, it's the best thing in the world. I love these guys."

And what better way to say goodbye to the seniors on the team than a perfect season and another ring?

"This is my last year, so it makes it even sweeter. But, I mean, going through a perfect season, that's like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity right there," said Kinslow, who broke school records left and right this year. "It's the first time it's been done here, so that's an unbelievable thrill."

Moore. Kinslow. Funderburk.

Those names won't be forgotten any time soon.

But besides making history, they've paved the way for the next squad -- and the squad after that.

"Every year, we hate to see guys go," Lowe said. "But I guess it gives somebody else a chance to step up the next time around."

And with role models like that, who says next year can't be perfect as well? It just takes good-old-fashioned discipline and teamwork.

And this DWS team had it -- and then some.

"We're a tight group of guys," Moore said. "This summer we worked hard ... and it paid off."