Deerfield's Kh'Ron McClain drags two Southland defenders into the end zone during the first half of DWS' 41-0 win Friday. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY -- Never mind that region title, home-field advantage and everything else significant that had already been clinched before Friday's game.
GISA Class A No. 1-ranked Deerfield-Windsor (9-2, 8-0) demonstrated that it's not about how you start, but how you finish by clobbering region rival Southland Academy, 41-0.
The season-finale victory keeps the Knights' momentum going as they get ready to host Mount de Sales in next Friday's playoff opener with the hopes of repeating as state champs firmly on their minds.
"This win is good for us," Deerfield quarterback Dallas Margeson said. "It's our seniors' last game so we played hard for them. It's good for the seniors, good for the team and a good win overall."
Margeson completed three of his four passes for 40 yards and rushed for a touchdown in the win.
The Raiders (5-6, 3-5) put together a few solid drives but ultimately were never able to get going on offense. Three turnovers and one pass completion in the first half made it difficult to find a rhythm.
"They sure didn't help us," Southland head coach Tim Goodin said of the turnovers. "It's tough to end the season when you don't win the last game in any fashion. The kids are disappointed (because) we came over here to try and win the game and didn't stay in the game very long."
Deerfield-Windsor star and Herald Dynamite Dozen selection Quentin Heard got the first and only score in the opening quarter, in surprising fashion. Inside the Southland 10-yard line, quarterback Jake Hood dropped back on third down and was sacked by Heard, causing the ball to come loose, scoring a TD Heard didn't expect.
"I really didn't even know what happened," Heard admitted. "I hit him and I thought I just had the sack, and then I hear, 'The ball is loose!' The referee actually looked at me and he looked down and I looked down and the ball is in between my feet, so I just picked it up and took off."
Heard's fumble recovery touchdown from five yards out got the Knights going and they never looked back.
"We did not come out with much fire, but after that touchdown everything started rolling," said Heard, who finished with 117 yards on the ground on just nine carries.
Kh'Ron McClain scored the Knights' second touchdown on a short goal line play. When Southland failed to respond by turning the ball over on downs, Margeson connected with Rich Fallaw for a big pass play that put the Knights in scoring position. Margeson completed the drive with a nine-yard touchdown run, giving Deerfield-Windsor a 21-0 halftime lead.
The Raiders did move into the red zone before the half, but wasted a golden scoring opportunity when running back Clay Oxford fumbled the ball away to Gaughf Ivey.
"I thought we got a little momentum and started moving the ball and stopped them again, but we just couldn't get a score," Goodin said. "If we could have scored before the half I think we could have gotten back in the game and had a chance."
Deerfield opened the second half by going 54 yards on three plays. Heard did most of the damage with a huge run up the sidelines that he would have scored on but got tripped up. Instead Ivey got the touchdown on the next play from 18 yards out.
"We wanted to come out on the first drive and put one on the board," Deerfield head coach Allen Lowe said. "We have not been doing that very well in the second half the past week so I thought our kids did well by coming out and scoring."
The scoring continued for the Knights halfway through the third quarter when Heard scored his only rushing touchdown of the night.
Backup running back Matthew Fox, who was looking to redeem himself after a third-quarter fumble, finished a seven-play, 72-yard drive with a 19-yard touchdown run.
The Raiders now have to part ways with their seniors and look to next year.
"We have a young team," Goodin said. "We've had a competitive team for most of the year being that young, so we have to build on that and get a little better and stronger and be ready to go next year."
The Knights, meanwhile, can relish in everything they've accomplished and everything that awaits them with being the No. 1 ranked team in GISA 1-AAA.
"It means we get to play right here on this field (through the whole playoffs)," Lowe said. "And that's real big because we enjoy playing right here and not having to travel."