Spartans hang tough, earn win

There were plenty of opportunities for Sun Valley to call it a season last week, especially after the Spartans fell into a 22-7 hole in the first quarter against Asheville T.C. Roberson. Instead, coach Scott Stein’s club cut the lead to 22-16 at halftime and tied the game at 31 in the closing minutes.

When the Spartans got the ball back with roughly 35 seconds remaining in the game, Stein didn’t envision much excitement for the end of regulation.

“I pretty much figured we’d go for overtime at that point, but (Roberson) started playing a really weird prevent defense,” Stein said. “I handed a draw to (running back) Albert (Funderburk) with 7.5 seconds to go, and he took it 69 yards for a touchdown as time expired.

“It was a pretty crazy game.”

Funderburk finished with 232 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries, and added 95 receiving yards and another touchdown through the air. Quarterback Kevin Saxton added 224 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns.

For Stein, his team’s comeback win was the culmination of a week that began with a disappointing loss to Porter Ridge with the Southern Carolina 3A/4A title on the line the week before, along with some much bigger goals the Spartans have had all season.

“Like I’ve said all year long, this is a terrific group of kids,” Stein said. “I don’t know how to explain it, but they just kind of play for each other.

“I think the week before they felt like maybe they’d left some points on the field, and so I think they went into this one with a little bit of a chip on their shoulders being the only conference champion team to be on the road in the first round of the playoffs. They felt like they could’ve played better and put themselves in a better spot.

“But at the end of the day,” Stein continued, “as our schedule attests, we like to play everybody, so it’s not like we’re going to be intimidated by the surroundings.”

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