Southern Pines Men’s Rugby hosted the first round of the Carolina Union playoffs in the rain Saturday versus Atlanta Renegades, the team that defeated them in the sweet 16 last year on the last play of the game.
The Big Cones were coming off a last-minute win at Charlotte 29-26 to steal first place in the division from the Queen City foes. Charlotte travels to Atlanta Old White to see who will face off next week in the Union Championship.
The first half started out quickly, before becoming a defensive battle.
Southern Pines held off an early Atlanta drive, and Zach Miller started the day with the first try, converted to go up 7-0. Atlanta answered back just four minutes later off a turnover to make the score 7-7, neither team was able to put in another try.
With nine minutes left in the half, Jeramy McCarty was issued a yellow card for a dead ball altercation. And with three minutes left, Austin Hooper was given a yellow card after the team committed multiple penalties in a row, and he was called out by the ref as the last person to commit a penalty.
Southern Pines was able to hold off an Atlanta drive, and Zach Miller literally ran off the clock to bring it to the half.
The second half started quickly for Southern Pines as Emerson Bessel put a try in just off the kick off, and Jeramy McCarty was brought back into the field. Zach hit the conversion from the far side, to go up 14-7.
The lead was short-lived, as Atlanta answered back to tie it up 14-14.
Sam Nemir gave the Big Cones the 19-15 lead after running over an Atlanta defender. Zach Miller added a penalty kick with 20 minutes left to extend the lead to a two possession game 22-14.
Atlanta answered in the corner to cut the lead to 22-19 with 17 minutes left.
Emerson Bessel made a nifty pass to Thomas Rudisill who scored in the corner to go up 27-19, and Zach converted it to extend the lead to 29-19 with six minutes left. The Big Cones were able to run out the rest of the clock and preserve the victory.
Southern Pines has advanced to play Atlanta Old White next weekend from the Union Championship and both sides have also qualified for the South Championship May 2 and 3 in Savannah, GA.
The champion from Florida will be the 2nd seed and the True South, which is made up of Alabama, Louisiana and Tennessee, will be the 4th and final seed.
This is the 4th straight year the team has advanced to the round of 32 and has advanced to the round of 16 each time. Southern Pines continues to win versus teams from cities much larger than our small town, the country is on notice. The club is working on raising $1,500 for the trip through their Facebook page.
Written by Sandhills Sentinel contributor Robert Bortins.
Photo Credit: Anna Gordon.