It probably wasn’t how Dutch Fork coach Tom Knotts envisioned the flow of Friday’s game would go — except for the result.
The Silver Foxes held on to defeat Fort Dorchester 21-14 to win the Class 5A Lower State championship game at Bagwell Field. Dutch Fork will go for its sixth-straight state championship on Dec. 4 against Gaffney at Charlie W. Johnson Stadium at Benedict.
“I thought we would pull it out. That’s what we do,” Knotts said. “They got some great players, win year in and year out. They got a great defensive line and their defense was better. We will go back, correct mistakes we made and get ready for the state championship.”
The win extended Dutch Fork’s unbeaten streak to 62 games, and most of those games were never in doubt. Friday’s win was the team’s first victory by less than 10 points since the 2019 state championship game against Dorman — a 34-31 overtime win.
Friday’s game went down to the final play as four-star receiver Antonio Williams picked off quarterback Zolten Osborne’s Hail Mary attempt at the 20-yard line to end the game.
“It took me back to rec days when I was playing safety, linebacker, quarterback all that,” Williams said. “Coach told me to go back to the middle of the field. I just went back deep and went up and got it.”
Dutch Fork’s journey to get back to the state championship game was filled with loss and adversity. Silver Foxes senior offensive lineman Jack Alkhatib died after collapsing at a night practice Aug. 24, and the team has dedicated the season to him. Alkhatib was mentioned throughout pregame warmups Friday and in the postgame prayer.
Dutch Fork players hugged Kelly Hewins Alkhatib, Jack’s mother, before heading to the locker room before the game.
“It has been the goal since Jack passed away to get six for 60 (Alkhatib number),” linebacker Chandler Perry said. “And we are — so we need to finish.”
Perry was part of a Dutch Fork defense that picked off three passes and came up with several big stops in the game.
The Silver Foxes have dominated most of the opposition this year but got all they wanted from a physical Fort Dorchester team despite jumping on top 14-0 in the first quarter. The Patriots stayed composed after the rough start.
For Dorchester outgained Dutch Fork 357-338 and had a 12-minute time of possession advantage, but three turnovers in Dutch Fork territory were too much to overcome.
“We were down there three or four times. We should have won,” Fort Dorchester coach Steve LaPrad said. “Our kids played well. We have a heckuva football team. ... Wish we had won. We deserved to win. I don’t think they want any more of us.
“I think we were the better team tonight. They’re a good team but I am proud of our guys. To me, this was the state championship game. The other teams are wasting their time even going next week.”
Dutch Fork tailback Jarvis Green scored on a 3-yard run that capped a 13-play, 72-yard drive to make it 7-0 with 7:37 left in the first quarter. After forcing a Fort Dorchester punt, quarterback Davin Patterson hit Green on a swing pass out of the backfield for a 74-yard touchdown that made it 14-0 with 5:29 left in the first.
Green finished with 133 total yards but was in and out of the game in the second half after suffering a knee injury late in the second quarter.
Fort Dorchester got on the board when Michael Smalls scored on a 3-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 14-7 with 4:06 left in the second quarter.
The Patriots had a chance to tie it right before halftime after a Dutch Fork fumble. Fort D got it to the 9-yard line and went for it on fourth-and three, but C.J. Wicker sacked Zolton Osborne to stop the drive.
The Dutch Fork defense came up with another big play when Jaden Kinard picked off Osborne at the 8-yard line. After a penalty backed it up to the 4-yard line, Patterson hit a wide-open Williams for a 96-yard touchdown to make it 21-7 with 1.5 seconds left in the third quarter.
“It just was just there and Antonio made him miss. Big-time players make big-time plays,” Patterson said.
“He (the Fort Dorchester defensive back) was talking all game and got me fired up,” Williams said. “... So I told coach let’s run this play, he was in press coverage on me and I gave them a little move and just ran past him.”
Williams finished with four catches for 129 yards and a touchdown. Patterson was 7-of-13 passing for 234 yards and two touchdowns.
Osborne was 16-of-31 for 219 yards and a touchdown for Fort Dorchester. Tre Ryan had five catches for 101 yards and a TD that cut the lead to 21-14 with 5:02 left.
Smalls rushed for 97 yards and caught six passes for 40 yards.
“It has been a pleasing year, not really how I envisioned, but things don’t always work out as planned,” Knotts said. “But we are where we want to be, where we thought we would be, but not quite like how I thought we would be doing it.”