FYFFE — Where so many have failed, Saks succeeded.
The Wildcats advanced to the state semifinals Friday night with a 14-7 win over Fyffe, handing the Red Devils their first loss at Paul Benefield Stadium since Sept. 4, 2015.
Saks did it behind the veteran poise of Sean Parnell — a three-year starter at quarterback — and a defense that came up with big plays at the most opportune times.
Parnell’s connection with Jalen McCants, who Parnell referred to as “Superman,” proved beneficial in the first half. McCants caught four passes from Parnell for 39 yards during an 11-play, 62-yard drive that Parnell capped with a 5-yard touchdown run.
“I’ve probably thrown millions of passes to Jalen,” Parnell said. “We work out so much, and it’s all playing off now.”
Deniro Goode hauled in Parnell’s two-point conversion pass to give the Wildcats an 8-0 lead with 1:51 to play in the first quarter.
Fyffe moved the ball inside Saks’ 10-yard line twice in the second quarter, but the Red Devils came away empty-handed on both occasions.
“Huge plays, huge plays for our defense,” Saks coach Jonathan Miller said.
Facing fourth-and-three from the 8-yard line, Fyffe quarterback Kyle Dukes hit William Stephens, but the Wildcats dropped him a yard short of the first-down marker.
The Red Devils got the ball back at Saks’ 12-yard line after blocking a punt, but on fourth-and-two from the 4, Dukes coughed the ball up. Parnell recovered and returned the ball 59 yards to the Fyffe 37-yard line.
“Fyffe is a fundamental team, and they don’t make many mistakes like that,” Parnell said. “In my mind, I was just thinking — them making a mistake like that — we have to capitalize off of it.”
Saks threatened to score on the ensuing possession but Shon Elston lost a fumble at the 3-yard line, and the Wildcats headed to the locker room up 8-0.
After airing it out in the first half, Saks went to the ground game in the second. Parnell carried the ball seven times for 38 yards and capped a 10-play, 49-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run, upping the Wildcats’ lead to 14-0 with 3:48 to play in the third quarter.
Fyffe cut the deficit to 14-7 after a 2-yard touchdown run from Dukes with 5:20 to play in the fourth quarter.
Elston atoned for his second-quarter fumble with a 13-yard catch on third-and-seven to give Saks a first down, and the Wildcats ran out the clock from there.
What to know
—Parnell completed 15 of 23 passes for 129 yards. He added 86 rushing yards on 22 carries.
—McCants caught eight passes for 63 yards and added 17 rushing yards on five carries.
—Elston caught three passes for 31 yards, Goode two for 20 and Rickey Garrett two for 15. Garrett added 11 rushing yards on four carries.
—Miller on Parnell: “He just does a good job running our offense. We ask a lot out of our quarterback and he does a great job.”
—Parnell on his offensive line: “I think I’ve got the best offensive line in the state in 3A. They’re not the biggest, they’re not the strongest, but they get after it.”
—Saks (12-1) earned another shot at Piedmont (11-2), which beat the Wildcats 28-12 on Sept. 3.