Stepping Up: Seahawks plodding through playoffs again

Published 5:36 pm Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Lawrence Brown and Matt Baxter graduated, taking with them the over 3,500 rushing yards and 39 touchdowns they scored as seniors last season. Johnny Sullivan is no longer facilitating Southside’s offense, and the offensive line isn’t quite formidable as it was a year ago.

Still, the Seahawks haven’t missed a beat. Senior linebacker and team captain Hunter Sparks leads an impressive defense that has helped them land in the third round, just one win from reaching the 1-A regional championship game for the second year in a row.

While the defense has played a significant role in Southside’s four-game winning streak, the offense has put teams on notice. Zikajah Crawford only touched the ball six times on Friday, but the senior torched KIPP Pride’s defense for 260 yards and three touchdowns. As a team, the Seahawks amassed 483 yards of total offense on just 28 plays.

The Seahawks are firing on all cylinders and it really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. They’ve had their ups and downs this season as they battled through injuries and a bit of rebuilding, but this is where coach Jeff Carrow and his teams thrive.

While many of Southside’s key players from last year’s squad have moved on, the Seahawks currently leading the charge have been around plenty of success. This upperclassmen corps has made it to at least the third round of the playoffs every year. The last time Southside didn’t make a meaningful postseason run was a 3-9 season in 2013.

A lot of it has to do with Carrow’s “next man up” mantra and the emphasis on continuity that goes with it. Many of today’s top-notch players got their first meaningful reps during a 2014 season in which the Seahawks went 10-4. Brandon Sullivan, who was then only a freshman, ranked fifth on that squad with 166 rushing yards on 34 carries. Crawford, Kyle Hill and Marshall Medlock each scored rushing touchdowns.

Fast-forward a year and a lot of those same players were still taking a backseat to the tandem of Baxter and Brown, but they still made important contributions when called upon. Sullivan and Crawford had their number called more often, and were able to do some damage.

Sullivan’s 345 rushing yards ranked third on the team. Crawford built on his sophomore showing with 288 rushing yards and three touchdowns as a junior.

The same year-to-year consistency can be observed on defense, too. Sparks led the team in tackles last season. He was a leader then and has stepped up in that regard, too. Other Seahawks like Demetrius Ebron, Scott Ringlien and Teddy Minor have built on the experience they got as younger player, too.

Players like Crawford, Hill and Myers saw more time on defense than offense in years past. They were able to make an impact on that side of the ball. Crawford and Myers tied for the team high with four interceptions apiece. Hill had a pair, too. None of them have seen a major drop off in defensive production, despite being more involved on offense.

The players change from one year to the next, but Carrow and the Seahawks usually seem to find success. The system is battle tested and has produced success more often than not. For each player that graduates, there’s another behind him that has been involved enough in the past to step right in.

The “next men up” have stepped up this time, and the result is another third-round appearance for Southside.