Dutch Fork captured its eighth state title Friday night after the Silver Foxes defeated region foe White Knoll 21-6 to give head coach Tom Knotts his 15th career championship.
Dutch Fork captured its eighth state title Friday night after the Silver Foxes defeated White Knoll 21-6 to conclude a season unlike any other.
Silver Foxes Head coach Tom Knotts captured his 15th career state championship across North and South Carolina, becoming the 23rd coach in history across the country to win at least 15 titles, according to MaxPreps. But this one defied a new set of adversities never seen in any of his previous wins
“You don't even know half of what we've been through,” Knotts said. “It's just been a team that usually steps up. We're going to have some people step up next year too. That’s what's great about football.”
Dutch Fork overcame a 2-5 start to the season, including a loss to White Knoll, and made a run all the way to the state title game, adding another championship to the dynasty Knotts has built.
“I don't know how we went 2-5. We stopped butting heads, and we started doing things right, and the rest is history,” Knotts said. ‘It's not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
That same slogan can be applied to the way Dutch Fork played Friday. The team went from a disastrous first two offensive drives, to beating White Knoll by multiple possessions thanks to an inspiring performance from its defense.
The unit overwhelmed the Timberwolves throughout the game, allowing no offensive points. White Knoll struggled to gain yards and failed to keep its offense on the field, going 1-11 on third downs.
“We were keyed in the film this week,” Dutch Fork linebacker Raleigh Salters said. “We were ready for what they were going to do and we executed.”
Quarterback Jonathan Hunt put his body on the line for Dutch Fork, completing 13 of 20 passes for 135 yards and leading the team in rush attempts with 12 for 23 yards and two touchdowns. He unfortunately left the game before the victory formation after splitting his hand open late.
“When it counted, he hit those boot passes with the guy over the middle and stuck it in the end zone down there,” Knotts said. “I coach quarterbacks hard and he's always, yes sir, no sir, how can I get better? And he spent all his lunch periods with me this week looking at them, doing everything he could extra, and I just love John Hunt and am just extremely proud of him.”
Running back Trent Lodge had 58 yards on 10 rushes, while K.J. Smith added a touchdown. Receiver Jayden Westbrook had three catches for 33 yards.
White Knoll quarterback Landon Sharpe was held mostly in check by the Dutch Fork defense. Sharpe has had many big-time performances this season but was held to 56 passing yards and 10 rushing yards in the contest. This was also Sharpe’s first game without a passing or rushing touchdown.
Both offenses failed to score in the first half. Neither team built more than one sustainable drive and were overwhelmed by the opposing defenses.
Dutch Fork moved the ball to the red zone on its opening drive after Hunt came out in rhythm, going 3-3 for 50 yards. However, the Silver Foxes walked off the field scoreless after missing a 26-yard field goal attempt.
The Dutch Fork defense kept the Timberwolves off the scoreboard after the missed field goal and forced a punt to get their offense the ball back,
The Timberwolves decided they did not need their offense on the field to score and got the game's first touchdown after a bad snap on a Dutch Fork fourth-and-inches attempt rolled back into the endzone for White Knoll's Lincoln Ilungampumbu to jump on. The PAT hit off the upright, making White Knoll’s lead 6-0.
White Knoll got its second turnover midway through the second period. Dutch Fork had the ball in White Knoll territory after forcing the Timberwolves to punt deep in their endzone. The Timberwolves defense got off the field on the next play after Connor Burgess grabbed an interception.
The Timberwolves offense continued to struggle, failing to capitalize off the free possession and turning the ball over on downs at the Dutch Fork 23-yard line.
Neither team accumulated more than 100 yards in the half. Dutch Fork led with 94 yards at the break but most of those came from its first drive. White Knoll went into the half with 69 yards of offense.
Dutch Fork’s offense found life in the third quarter and scored 14 points to swing the momentum.
The team took the lead after scrapping together a gritty drive. The Silver Foxes almost had their third turnover after a failed pitch play hit the turf. The ball went out-of-bounds though, keeping the ball in Dutch Fork’s possession.
The team later converted on a fourth and one, but it took a measurement from the chain crew to confirm it. A few plays later, Dutch Fork capped the drive with a two-yard keeper from Hunt.
Their next drive was very similar, minus the fumble. Dutch Fork had a balanced run-pass attack and ended the drive with a three-yard rush from Hunt.
“We had a talk in the locker room,” Lodge said. “we had to really look at what it was and make changes from there, and the coaches had a big part in it because you could see everybody was down. We came around, we came out with energy, and then made some plays and had a momentum shift.”
Dutch Fork scored another touchdown in the fourth quarter to go up multiple possessions as the minutes were winding down. The Silver Foxes moved the ball downfield and punched it in with a K.J. Smith rush from four yards with under six minutes left in the game.
White Knoll had time to get back in the game if the team moved fast, but the offense just could not click and turned the ball over on downs near the 50-yard line with two minutes left. The Silver Foxes then killed the clock and gave the Timberwolves their first loss of the season.
“The defense was playing lights out the whole time, and they really dominated the third quarter,” Knotts said.
Dutch Fork continued its tradition of owning the 5A championship. This win marks the team’s second 5A championship in a row and seventh in the last eight seasons, the same number of years 5A football has been played in South Carolina.
Even in the lone year the team did not win the 5A crown, the Silver Foxes were still in the championship game. To win the 5A title, you have to go through the Dutch Fork dynasty, and Knotts said there is no reason that should change as long as the team is dedicated.
“There's not an excuse, but I've always said success is a double-edged sword,” Knotts said. “It's not enough to show up. You’ve got to work and excel.”
Thursday, Nov. 30
2A: Oceanside 35, Gray Collegiate 28
Friday, Dec. 1
A: Christ Church 67, Johnsonville 21
5A: Dutch Fork 21, White Knoll 6
Saturday, Dec. 2
4A: Westside: 34, South Florence: 32
3A: Daniel 49, Camden 48
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