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WABASH— South Adams' senior Klayton Hinshaw summed it up nicely while hoisting the sectional trophy and addressing the team after the game.
"17 years, baby!"
The number referenced by one of the Stars' top lineman was of course how long it has been since SA has won a sectional title. On Friday night South Adams defeated Southwood in an overtime thriller, 40-39, giving the Berne boys their fifth title in school history and first since 1996.
"All the support from the fans and the community got us here," explained SA coach Rick Burkhalter who wins a sectional title in his first year at the helm. "We didn't get a lot of press this year and our record reflects why but I knew from the beginning of the season that this is a good football team."
The Stars, now 5-7 on the year, won two of their first three games before dropping six straight to end the regular season. SA has now won three straight including another one-point affair against Adams Central last week to get to the title game, their first since 2011 when the Stars were knocked out by Sheridan by one point in overtime. The win against Southwood on Friday night was aided by two extra point blocks from the opportunistic Starfire defense.
In a game that featured eight lead changes, Southwood appeared to be in control of their own destiny when they scored with 1:49 left to play in the third quarter taking a 27-21 lead on an 11-yard rushing score from Nathan Hollars, his first of three in the game.
The Stars tried to respond in the fourth with a drive down to the 10-yard line in the red zone but Danny Goff came away with the only SA turnover of the game intercepting a Derek Wanner pass killing the drive.
Southwood would manufacture a drive of their own that seemed to be headed towards a score that would pull away from the Stars for good. After three first downs including an 18-yard run from Hollars, Southwood QB Robbie Cole connected with Keaton Weiss for 37 yards downfield deep in the SA red zone but the Knights' wideout would be stripped by a pair of Starfire defenders and Cal Clouser would recover swinging the momentum once again.
"We've been kicked all season long but I'm proud of them because we've never stayed down," Burkhalter noted.
With the Stars now in possession, Skylar Schoch ran a fourth down and one for five yards to keep the drive alive and Wanner followed that with a 68-yard keeper to the house tying the score at 27-27 after the missed PAT.
After a Southwood punt, South Adams took the lead on a 40-yard touchdown sweep to Isaiah Amstutz on the seventh play of a two-minute drive for the 33-27 lead. Another missed kick left the door open for the Knights, however.
Moving the ball down the field with just under three minutes to play, Cole rallied the troops with a 37-yard pass to Jake Lloyd followed by a 14-yard pass to Hollars. Andrew Beachey made a big first and goal stop keeping Hollars at bay but the Knights would score two plays later as the junior back ran another score in from three-yards out setting up a game-winning extra point with under a minute to play.
As the kick was up, SA's Dakota Scherer blasted in the path of the ball saving the Stars' season and eventually forcing overtime where the Knights had the football first with a chance to score from 10 yards out.
On the second play in the extra period, Hollars scored from five yards out for the 39-33 lead. On the ensuing extra point it was Schoch who took the liberty of sending the Knights' kick away for the Stars' second consecutive blocked point after.