Deerfield receiver Austin Fallaw catches a touchdown pass over Southland defender Ryan Weaver early in Friday night’s game. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)
ALBANY — The Deerfield-Windsor Knights scored early and often — including earning 21 points on three first-half fumble recoveries — on their way to dismantling long-time rival Southland 48-7 Friday night at Webb Memorial Stadium.
With the win, the Knights end the regular season with a 7-4 overall record, and thanks to owning the tiebreaker over Southland, earn the No. 2 seed from GISA Region 1-AAA and secure a home playoff game in next week’s opening round.
It was a crisp fall night as the game kicked off and so were the Knights, who came out strong on senior night with a score on their first possession. They added one more offensive score in the half and bolstered that with three defensive touchdowns, scoring all three on Southland fumbles.
Southland was never able to recover as it trailed the Knights 34-0 at halftime and 41-0 after the third quarter.
Deerfield took command of the game early, mounting a 75-yard opening drive behind strong runs from Matthew Fox and Steven Williams. After covering the first 50 yards of the drive on the ground, Deerfield took to the air, where senior quarterback Tripp Presley connected with Austin Fallaw on a 25-yard touchdown pass.
Hoping to tie the game on their first possession, the Raiders instead put themselves in an early hole when quarterback John Adkins fumbled the ball deep in Raider territory, where Fox was able to scoop it up and take it into the end zone, giving the Knight’s a 13-0 first quarter lead.
Deerfield kept its foot on the gas in the second quarter when Fallaw scored his second touchdown of the night with a spectacular catch, out-jumping a Southland defender to grab pass from QB Tyler Lowe, before taking off to the end zone on the 57-yard scoring play.
Southland gave up another score before the half when Deerfield junior Dakari Cutts picked up a second Raider fumble and took it in for a score, giving the Knights a commanding 27-0 with three minutes remaining in the second quarter.
Just moments later, in what must have seemed like a nightmare to Southland players, coaches and fans, the Raiders committed their third turnover of the night, again fumbling the ball into the waiting hands of a Deerfield defender. The third fumble was recovered by Austin Cain, who scooped up the ball and scrambled 23 yards for yet another score, giving the Knights a seemingly insurmountable 34-0 lead heading into the locker room at the half.
The second half saw the Knights continue their momentum, scoring just over halfway through the third quarter when Presley threw his second touchdown of the night, hitting senior tight end Grey Lanier on a 12-yard fade to put the team ahead 41-0.
“It was a great way to end my last regular season,” Presley said of his two scoring throws. “I just came out to play. It was a fun game. Everyone played well. We finally started to play Deerfield football. It was a true team effort.”
Deerfield’s shutout was finally broken when Raider senior Allen Gleeson put Southland on the board with a 1-yard touchdown mid-way through the fourth quarter. Deerfield added yet another score less than a minute later when sophomore Antonio Watts broke off a 74-yard touchdown run, increasing the Knights lead to 48-7, where it remained until game’s end.
“Tonight if it could go our way, it did,” said Deerfield head coach Allen Lowe. “When you get three freebies, that changes things.
Despite getting three scores off turnovers, Lowe still felt the Knights played solid in every area of the game.
“The defense played very hard and the offense did a great job of executing,” Lowe said. “I’m really proud of this team, we finally started playing football the way Deerfield is capable of playing.”
The Knights hope to carry tonight’s momentum into next weekend when they’ll host the Mount De Sales Cavaliers in the first round of the state playoffs.
The two teams met back in September, with the Knight’s pulling out a close one 14-13.
“We played them earlier in the year and had to block a punt to pull it out,” said Lowe. “It’s definitely going to be a barn burner.”