Herald Dynamite Dozen selection Kh'Ron McClain had another big night Friday for the Knights, who trampled Tattnall, 42-21, to set up a state semifinal showdown with Stratford next week.
ALBANY — Tattnall Square coach Barney Hester, who has more than 300 wins, knows a little bit about big-time running backs.
He got a good look at one Friday when his defending state champion Trojans lost to Deerfield-Windsor, 42-21, in the opening round of the GISA Class AAA state playoffs.
"He ran like a back possessed,'' said Hester of DWS' Kh'Ron McClain.
No one will argue that.
McClain hit the playoffs running and didn't stop Friday night. He ran for 262 yards on 25 carries and three touchdowns and caught two passes for 73 yards, including a 53-yard TD catch. And if that wasn't enough, he had a sack on defense.
"He was awesome. K-Roc is just incredible,'' said DWS two-way lineman Patrick Forrestal, who had another monster game himself, including a couple of tackles for losses. "The Tattnall kids kept yelling at him that one of these times you are not going to get up, and he just jumped up every time they tackled him. He's not a big back, but he ran like one, breaking tackles. He's tough. I don't even know how to say it. He's just incredible.''
DWS coach Allen Lowe said he had no idea how many yards McClain rushed for in the win.
"I don't know how many he had,'' Lowe said. "But I knew I had to keep going to him. He had a great game. We really needed him in this game. I just kept giving him the ball.''
Great game plan.
Lowe had his kids ready for Tattnall, Deerfield's biggest rival. The two powerhouses always seem to face each other deep in the playoffs or for the state title, so the first-round meeting was as rare as the one-sided game.
That’s right, this was a romp against Tattnall Square, the defending state champ and owners off 11 state titles. The Trojans won't be going to the big dance this year.
Deerfield, however, is just finding its rhythm.
The Knights (11-1) have now won 10 in a row and meet Stratford in the state semifinals next Friday back at Webb Memorial, where they controlled Friday’s playoff game from the opening kickoff. DWS beat Stratford, 45-27, this year, but there's plenty at stake, because Stratford knocked off DWS last year in the state semifinals.
Tattnall (4-8) simply had no answer for McClain, a Herald Dynamite Dozen tailback who scored his first touchdown, a 4-yard run with 51 seconds left in the first quarter, and just kept coming.
"It seemed like every time Tattnall would get some momentum, Kh'Ron would come up with a big play,'' Lowe said.
McClain said it was simple.
"It's crunch time,'' he said. "It's win or go home. I don't know how many yards I had. The offensive line was great (Friday night). The guys up front, they handled it like a man all night.''
McClain picked up tough yards all game, breaking tackles against a hard-hitting defense that was out to bury him, but he also had big plays --- the kind that define games and players.
He scored on the 53-yard pass from Dallas Margeson, who hit a wide-open McClain in stride on Deerfield's first drive of the third quarter to lift the Knights to a 28-0 lead, and after Tattnall finally got on the board, McClain swiped the momentum back with a 68-yard run with 1:42 left in the third and DWS took a 35-7 lead into the fourth quarter.
Tattnall scored on the first play in the fourth on a 64-yard pass from Lane Watson to Orlando Mack, but McClain answered with a 53-yard TD run with 7:56 left in the game to all but nail it down.
The romp surprised everyone in GISA because DWS had to come back to beat Tattnall, 20-19, in their regular-season meeting in Macon.
"It's no surprise to us,'' McClain said. "We came out hungry. It's playoff time, and that just puts more motivation in me and everyone on this team. "We're hungry, and that's it. We realize what happened last year (with the loss in the semifinals) and we're going to be ready for next week. We're not going to let what happened last year happen this year.''
Deerfield played with that attitude all night Friday and controlled the game from the outset, dominating the game on the line of scrimmage and marching on long drives that kept the ball away from Tattnall and ate up the clock. The Knights went 60 yards in six plays and scored on a 16-yard TD run by Matthew Fox and then drove 61 yards in 14 plays, gambling and winning twice on fourth-and-short calls by Lowe. They took a 14-0 lead when McClain scored on a fourth-and-one at the 4-yard line.
KE'Marvin Pitts made it 21-0 with 2:25 left in the half when he scored on a 3-yard run that capped a 79-yard, 11-play drive, and then Margeson, who threw only two passes all night — both completions to McClain — connected with the 53-yard strike to start the third quarter and make it 28-0.
"We played a great first half,'' Lowe said. "And in the second half, getting that first score was really big.''
It was a back-breaker.
"(McClain) had a great night,'' Hester said. "He's a special young man. Deerfield has a lot of team speed. Those guys are good. We got down (28-0) and had to dig out of it. When you're playing a team with talent, it's hard to dig out.''
Tattnall didn’t score until there was 3:38 left in the third when Jonathan Smith stripped the ball from DWS’ John Germany and ran 45 yards for the TD. At that time in the game, Tattnall had only rushed for 55 yards. Watson connected with Mack for two long touchdowns — a 64-yarder on the first play of the fourth quarter and a 32-yarder with 4:04 left in the game to complete the scoring.
Dallas Margeson, Alec Miller and Pitts had interceptions against Watson, who completed 6 of 20 passes for 145 yards and two TDs.
But Deerfield's defense was stingy all night as Nick Michas, Forrestal and Fox, who had his 11th sack of the season, kept the pressure on all night.
"We knew we were better than beating them by one point,'' Forrestal said. "We played like a team. It was awesome. (Now) we want a ring.''