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Southwestern Randolph’s Marcus Robertson gets to the end zone past the outstretched arms of Jackson Rhyne during the Cougars’ 16-15 win over Providence Grove Friday.    Eric Abernathy/Randolph Hub

SWR helps home playoff game hopes with win over PG

CLIMAX — With the final week of the high school football season upon us, thoughts turn to the state tournament. That means records and RPI rankings come to the forefront with the NCHSAA sifting through all sorts of numbers to come up with the 32-team field for each region.


With the top 16 teams hosting first-round games, Southwestern Randolph took a huge step in gaining a home playoff contest with a thrilling 16-15 win over Providence Grove last week. With the win, the Cougars improved to 6-3 overall heading into Friday night’s regular-season finale at home against Trinity. 


With a record of 6-3 and a RPI ranking of 12 in the 2-A West classification, SWR is in good shape to host a state tournament playoff game. A win this week would certainly clinch a home contest. Providence Grove slips to 5-4 overall and has a No. 17 RPI ranking, just out of what’s needed to host a first-round game.


“We have words or phrases every week and the one for this week was urgency,” SWR head coach Seth Baxter said after the win last Thursday night. “Do not take a play off. If you want to go to the playoffs, we have to win tonight. Bottom line is we treated this like a playoff game. We knew we had to come in here and get the win and we did.”


They did thanks to a blocked PAT after the Patriots had pulled to within 16-15 with 1:59 left to play. The interior defensive line of the Cougars totally collapsed the Patriots’ offensive line and the kick never had a chance.


“We challenged them at halftime,” Baxter said. “I told them right now, we are getting beat up front on both sides. When the secondary and linebackers are making all the tackles, there is a problem. The second half, we controlled the line of scrimmage.”


They did on that play.


“I felt like it was the right call to take the point,” PG coach David Hayes said of going for the tie instead of a chance to take the lead late with a two-point conversion. “If we had to play it out (in overtime), I felt good. Kicking extra points is as good a play as we can call.”


The Patriots are blessed with two solid kickers in senior Tucker Batten and sophomore Carson Jones. When Batten nailed a 37-yard field goal with 11:21 to play in the game, the Patriots had a 9-8 lead.


A big punt return set the Cougars up on the PG 25 and Nathan Ellis capped the drive with a 4-yard run. A two-point conversion pass from Noah Stills to Colton Law with 5:01 left pushed SWR into a 16-9 lead, but the Patriots responded with a 70-yard drive in nine plays, overcoming a couple of penalties along the way. James Ellis scored his second TD of the game on a 17-yard run and that led to the missed PAT attempt.


“What a game, just a great effort by both teams,” Baxter said. “Both teams left everything on the field. We were fortunate to make a couple more plays. I am so proud of kids for blocking that extra point. They came after it.”


PG, which started the season 4-0 and 5-1, dropped its third straight game.


“We will do laundry, watch film and come back Monday and go to work,” Hayes said. “It will be a challenge next week for us to overcome a hangover. Our kids knew this was a big game and we have another winnable game. We still have high playoff hopes.”