CHAPEL HILL On a night of big plays, none were bigger than Tyler Atwater's 31-yard interception return in the fourth quarter for a touchdown, highlighting a 23-point fourth quarter for Southern Alamance in a 45-28, come-from-behind win Friday at East Chapel Hill.
Southern Alamance's Jonathan Lloyd completed 16 of 31 passes for 241 yards. He threw touchdown passes of 30 yards to Atwater and 24 yards to Tylin McAdams, and he ran in one himself from 7 yards out for the Patriots' last TD of the game for a 43-28 lead with 4:06 left to play.
The Patriots (3-1) sealed the win with a safety, tackling East running back Chris Fowler in the end zone with 1:15 left to play.
“That was some ugly football on our side,” Southern Alamance head coach Andrew Carrouth said. “Give East Chapel Hill credit. They played their tails off.\, and they’re a tough football team.”
East’s Connor Stough completed 10 of 21 passes for 319 yards — including first-half touchdown passes of 79 yards and 32 to Jack Hankins — and he completed a 68-yard strike to Arkavious Parks to set up his own 1-yard sneak for another TD.
Southern led 22-21 at half time, helped by a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Dairyon Matkins and a 22-yard touchdown run by Alford Ellison. After Atwater's 30-yard TD catch, Southern faked a conversion kick and went ahead 22-14 on a pass from holder Brian Joines to tight end Axel Easter.
Carrouth said the Patriots needed almost three quarters to recover from the emotional hangover they had after defeating county archrival Eastern Alamance.
“I knew as soon as we stepped on the field tonight that we weren’t in the right mindset,” Carrouth said. “We weren’t where we needed to be mentally, and we paid for it.”
East Chapel Hill (1-3) led 28-22 midway through the third quarter after Fowler scampered 22 yards for a touchdown. The Wildcats then had the ball at midfield after Lloyd threw an interception late in the third quarter, picked off by Lavon Hartman and returned 24 yards to the 50-yard line.
But East gave up the ball on downs, getting called for grounding on fourth down and giving up the ball at its own 47. Three plays later, Southern answered with McAdams's 24-yard catch-and-run, then went up 36-28 off Atwater's interception return on the next series.
“That interception return for a touchdown broke our backs a bit,” East Chapel Hill coach Jon Sherman said. “We were right there for three quarters and even had the lead. We just couldn’t make enough big plays.”
Southern’s win was its fourth straight against East in a series that dates back to the Wildcats’ earliest football teams. East’s only win in the series was a 35-20 win on the road in 2001, the first year a Wildcat team ever made it to the state playoffs.
The Wildcats need to get Friday’s loss behind them quickly, Sherman said.
“I told them they need to wash this one away and come back Monday ready to go,” he said. “We’ve got a cross-town rival coming up. It’s Chapel Hill, and we need to rebound the season right there.”