South County’s defense steps up in Va. 6A North region win over Robinson

[READ ARTICLE IN THE WASHINGTON POST]

Unbeaten South County rode into Saturday’s 6A North region semifinals on the wings of a high-powered offense that had yet to be slowed in 2015. Through 12 games, the Stallions’ relentless triple-option attack churned out gaudy averages of 43.7 points and 492 yards per outing. No one could keep up.

But when senior cornerback Kofi Bell snared an interception and galloped toward the end zone early in the fourth quarter in Lorton, it became clear that second-ranked South County was riding its unheralded defense to next week’s region championship. Bell and company picked up the slack for an offense that managed just two scores, lifting the Stallions to a 20-15 semifinal victory over No. 20 Robinson.

“We go out and make plays on the field every week, and that’s how it’s always been,” Bell said. “And now it’s finally being recognized.”

Bell’s 55-yard pick-six took pressure off a South County offense that watched drives end on a turnover on downs and three straight punts. Robinson (9-4) responded two plays later with a 40-yard touchdown scamper by senior running back Sean Foncha, but South County (13-0) extinguished any hopes of a Rams comeback on the game’s final drive.

Alex Miller completed his first two passes of the day to put the Rams inside South County territory with under one minute to play. Coming out of a timeout on third and nine with 36 seconds left, Bell penetrated a gap to put pressure on Miller in the backfield, and senior linebacker Kevin Allen finished him off with a sack. Allen came up big again on the next play, shedding a block on the edge and dragging Miller to the turf to secure the win.

“It was pure adrenaline,” said Allen, who finished with eight solo tackles on the afternoon. “The second I got past that blocker I knew he was mine.”

The South County defense made its share of critical stops in the first half as well. A 52-yard run by Robinson tailback Dajon Lee put the Rams inside the Stallions’ 15-yard line, but they could only come away with a failed fake field goal four plays later. Trailing 7-3, the Rams also failed to capitalize on a fumble recovery inside the red zone when Foncha was stuffed on fourth and one with five seconds left in the half. They emerged from three first-half red zone trips with just three points.

Bell points to the Stallions’ 33-30 overtime win over rival Lake Braddock three weeks ago as a turning point for his team’s defense. Though they gave up 30 points, the Stallions proved they could take punches from a quality opponent and fight back.

“I think that was the first game where people started talking about our defense,” Bell said. “A lot of people say that we’re not a good defense because we give up a lot of points, but we also play twice as many snaps as every other defense in the state.”

South County will face an even more formidable defense in Westfield next week. The Bulldogs could prove a similar test to Saturday’s tilt against Robinson, which relied on a no-holds-barred ground attack to make headway.

“I think this game definitely helped our confidence against the run. I don’t think there’s many teams we play as physical as them,” Allen said. “We’ll be ready.”

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