FYFFE — No. 1 Fyffe played its final game of the decade at Long-Ridgeway Stadium on Friday night, and it walked off a winner for the 40th consecutive time on its home turf.
The Red Devils recorded their ninth shutout of the 2019 season by beating No. 3 Collinsville 21-0 in the Class 2A state football playoff semifinals. A standing-room only crowd witnessed the first semifinal battle between two DeKalb County teams.
Fyffe defeated the Panthers 24-3 in the regular season meeting between the Region 8 rivals.
“We knew what kind of game it was going to be,” Fyffe head coach Paul Benefield said. “We knew it was going to be physical up and down the line, and I’m proud of our kids for making just a few more plays than they did. Coach [Ernie] Willingham and Collinsville have a great team, and we’re just proud to get a win here.”
Fyffe improved to 14-0, extending its winning streak to 29 games over the last two years. The defending state champions advance to the Super 7 at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium, where they face No. 6 Reeltown (13-1) in the 2A finals. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Dec. 6.
Reeltown edged No. 8 Leroy 29-28 in the other 2A semifinal matchup.
The Red Devils are making their sixth Super 7 appearance and their fifth in the last six years. Fyffe won 2A championships in 2014, 2016 and last season. The Red Devils lost in the finals in 2007 and 2015.
Fyffe is 127-9 from 2010-19, the greatest decade in Fyffe and DeKalb County football history.
“It’s just unbelievable,” Benefield said. “I’d be a liar if I said I ever dreamed of anything like this happening to me. Our kids have just kept working, and we kept working. I don’t know what happened, but I’m proud to be a part of it.”
The Red Devils opened the contest with a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive.
On the third play of the series, quarterback Zach Pyron hit running back Ike Rowell with a pass out of the backfield he turned into a 46-yard gain to Collinsville’s 20-yard line.
Pyron kept for 3 yards to convert a fourth-and-two at the 12. Malichi Mize ran for 7 yards to the 2, and two plays later, Rowell leapt into the end zone from the 1 with 7:22 left in the first quarter. Brody Dalton’s conversion made it 7-0.
The Panthers (12-2) gained two first downs before Fyffe’s defense forced a punt. The Red Devils took over at their 25 and marched 75 yards to make it 14-0.
Fyffe escaped disaster on the first play when offensive lineman Jake Wooden recovered a fumble. On the next snap, Pyron delivered a 46-yard strike to Rowell down the Fyffe sideline, gaining a first down at the CHS 28.
Pyron found Mize for 15 yards across the middle to convert a third-and-12 from the 17, giving Fyffe a first-and-goal at the 2. Rowell scored from there on the first play of the second quarter, and Dalton kicked the extra point with 11:56 on the clock.
Collinsville took the kickoff and picked up two first downs, driving to Fyffe’s 33-yard line. On fourth-and-one from the 33, Fyffe’s Ty Bell and Eli Benefield stopped CHS quarterback Kaleb Jones for no gain with 8:37 remaining in the second period.
The Panthers received the second-half kickoff and drove into Fyffe territory behind Jones’ completions of 21 and 9 yards to Michael Tucker.
Jones had to leave the game for a play with the Panthers facing a second-and-nine from Fyffe’s 44. Problems with the snap resulted in a 12-yard loss back to the CHS 44. Jones returned on third down and completed a 13-yard pass, but it fell 7 yards short of the first down.
The teams traded punts, with Fyffe’s Justin Stiefel delivering a 54-yard kick to Collinsville’s 19 with 4:17 left in the third quarter.
The Panthers dropped a third-down pass that would’ve been a first down, if not a bigger gain, because the receiver had split a pair of Fyffe defenders.
A nice punt return by Stiefel put Fyffe’s offense in business at its 44 with 2:40 on the clock. The Red Devils covered 56 yards in nine plays for their final TD of the night.
Pyron broke loose off the left side and outraced the Panther defense 18 yards to the end zone with 10:04 to go in the fourth quarter. Dalton’s conversion made it 21-0.
The Panthers took the kickoff and put together their best drive of the night behind the passing and running of Jones.
Jones hit Tucker for 22 yards on a second-and-28 following a Panther holding penalty, and he converted a fourth-and-six with an 18-yard toss to Dalton Hughes. Jones threw to Tucker for 11 yards to the Fyffe 24.
The officials penalized Fyffe for a late hit following Jones’ 6-yard run to the 18, giving the Panthers a first-and-goal at the 9. Jones passed to Hughes for 2 yards, and he ran for 3 to the 4-yard line on second-and-goal.
Jones threw an incompletion on third-and-goal, and Hunter Gillilan broke up Jones’ fourth-and-goal pass in the end zone with 6:04 left in the game.
The Red Devils ran out the clock by picking up three first downs, slamming the door on their 20th consecutive victory over Collinsville.