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SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2007
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Decatur spoils party, wins 4th game
Red Raiders ride defense
in second half

By Brooke Milam
bmilam@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

HARVEST — Class 5A Decatur High's defense had no room for error in the third quarter of Friday night's nonregion game at 6A Sparkman.

The Senators were only 2 yards away from a score that would tie the game and likely swing momentum in their favor.

Sparkman had its chance to steal Decatur's lead, but the Red Raiders' defense said "No," stopping senior quarterback Rob Weaver from reaching the end zone.

"We were in trouble. The defense had pressure on them at the end, and they rose up," Decatur coach Jere Adcock said.

"That was huge," Adcock said. "That might have been the biggest play of the night. Our defense really played well in the second half."

Decatur took a 19-13 win over Sparkman on homecoming night for the Senators.

The Red Raiders (4-1) extended their winning streak to four games after an opening-week loss to Huntsville. They did it on the strength of strong second-half defense that answered the call in what was shaping up to be a shootout.

"We were very sluggish at the beginning in the first half, but we came back out and got fired up and played Decatur football," senior linebacker Tim Witherspoon said.

Decatur held Sparkman (2-3) to a field goal in the second half, and matched it with one of its own to preserve the advantage.

But before halftime, it was anyone's game.

The first five series of the game produced points.

Decatur scored first when junior Brooks Johnson caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Ben Neill to cap Decatur's opening drive, putting the Red Raiders ahead 6-0.

Sparkman answered with senior Bryant Williams' 5-yard touchdown run on its first possession on the game and went up 7-6 on an extra point from senior Michael Kitchens.

Williams saw no more action after that for Sparkman. The tailback went to the sidelines after reinjuring an ankle that had caused him to miss practice during the week.

With the Senators' main force out of the contest, Decatur regained the lead and never trailed again.

Neill put the ball in the end zone from 2 yards out on a quarterback sneak with 3:14 left in the first quarter, and Decatur led 13-7.

The teams traded field goals in the second quarter when Kitchens kicked a 30-yarder to pull Sparkman within 13-10, and Decatur senior Michael Schuster countered with a 32-yarder to keep the Red Raiders ahead 16-10 at halftime.

"We were averaging about 36 points a game, and I'm sitting here at halftime thinking both teams will be at about that number," Sparkman coach Roger Haynes said.

"Their defense really turned up the pressure."

Driving with another chance to capture a late lead in the fourth quarter, Sparkman again met a Decatur defense that would not cave.

The Senators began a drive with 4:52 to play and 34 yards to go that ended with a punt on fourth-and-seven from the 31-yard line.

"In some cases, we might have gone for it, but it just wasn't the situation we were looking for," Haynes said. "Things are just not bouncing our away right now, and we're not making the plays to win. We were hoping we could come back and pin them deep."

The Red Raiders used running plays to run out the clock on the win.

"It was important — every game is important," Witherspoon said. "I think we responded great. It's a win."

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