Rogers, defense leads Tigers past Wolfpack
Darlington runs for 346 yards on offense in the Region 6-A crossover game.
The Darlington Tigers aren’t sure if they will have to play next Friday or get an extra week of rest before starting the playoffs, but they know they have some momentum to help see them through either way.
Darlington wrestled away control of its Region 6-A crossover game early Friday night and held off visiting Whitefield Academy to earn a 22-14 win in the final game of the regular season.
The Tigers will now wait to see where they fall in the final Class A Private Power Ratings before determining their playoff scenario. They went into Friday’s game at No. 7, and a spot in the top eight will give them a bye in the first round.
“We knew it was going to be a very good football game, but I felt like we took a big step forward tonight heading into the playoffs,” Darlington head coach Tommy Atha said. “They throw the ball really well and our guys made some adjustments. We just rose to the occasion and made plays when we had to.”
Junior running back Kolin Rogers was the workhorse for Darlington, running for 249 yards on 51 carries and scoring all three of his team’s touchdowns. His performance put him over the century mark for the season, giving him 1,241 yards total.
“Coach told us we had to give it our all and play for each other, and tonight that’s what we did,” Rogers said. “We gave it a hundred percent, no matter what. I just wanted to do the best I could for my teammates. I didn’t think I was going to get the ball that much tonight, but that’s what happened.”
While Darlington (8-2) scored on its opening drive to go up 8-0, turnovers helped its opponent to stay close and get within 15-14 at the end of the third quarter.
Whitefield’s first drive of the final quarter was cut short when Roth Wilcox intercepted a pass from the Wolfpack’s Cole Peterson. Darlington then turned to Rogers to spearhead a 45-yard drive that ended when he found room for a 14-yard touchdown run with 3:53 left to play.
Whitefield (6-4) got back on offense, but running back Eric Little collided with Peterson three plays into the possession on a botched play, causing a fumble and Darlington’s Tommy Atha Jr. jumped on it.
The Tigers began another meticulous drive with 2:19 left and, after converting on fourth-and-2, ran out the clock to seal the victory.
Darlington finished with 346 yards rushing to Whitefield’s 27. The Tigers’ offense was 11-of-15 on third down conversions and had 26 first downs to the Wolfpack’s nine.
“I’m tremendously proud of our offensive line. We challenged them this week and they responded,” coach Tommy Atha said. “They took it personally and I think came out here to prove that we were better than what we had done all season. I think they did that.”
Darlington’s opening drive set the tone for the night as the Tigers executed a 21-play, 92-yard drive that took 9:11 off the clock and ended with Rogers scoring on an 8-yard run. The team converted five third downs in the process.
Darlington’s Kolin Rogers (left) runs the ball down the field past Whitefield Academy’s Walker Smith (73) during Friday’s Region 6-A crossover game at Chris Hunter Stadium.
Darlington quarterback Frank Manning (14) slips by Whitefield Academy’s Walker Smith.
Darlington’s Roth Wilcox (3) returns a kickoff against Whitefield Academy on Friday night.