FORREST COUNTY (WDAM) - The first time Taylorsville High School's offense had the football Friday night in Eatonville, Ty Keyes' pass was batted into the air, intercepted and returned for a touchdown.
That was about the only thing that went wrong for the Tartars all night.
Senior running back Tycarius Roberts rushed for 173 yards and three touchdowns and returned a kickoff 72 yards for another as Taylorsville rolled up 526 yards total offense to run away from North Forrest High School 49-14 in a South State Class 2A semifinal game.
Freshman quarterback Ty Keyes threw for 208 yards and three touchdowns as Taylorsville built a 40-12 halftime lead.
"We knew we what we were playing for, so this is what we did," Keys said. "We've been practicing on our run game a lot, working to get better holes for our run game."
North Forrest senior quarterback Daylyn Croom, who had a magnetic resonance imaging test on his knee earlier this week and aggravated the injury during the game, was held in relative check by the Tartars.
Croom managed just 29 yards rushing on six carries and completed just 12-of-31 passes under continual heavy duress for 178 yards and a touchdown.
"I know Croom was beat up, but I was proud of the game plan my defensive coordinator had," Taylorsville coach Chuck Robertson said. "The kids executed it perfectly. To hold them to 14 points is something pretty amazing, especially with Croom. I know he's hurt, but he's an amazing athlete.
"They do an amazing job with that dude. I was just proud of the game plan and the kids executing it."
All told, the Taylorsville defense came up with six turnovers, including four interceptions, a fumble recovery and recovered an early onside kick. North Forrest (9-5) managed just one offensive touchdown and 230 yards total offense.
"I just asked the guys all week to come into (Friday night's) game and give it their all," North Forrest coach Anthony Dillon said. "We were down a lot in numbers with injuries, and we had some guys fight through adversity and give us what they had.
"All in all, we had a very good season. We lost to a very good team. Nobody expected us to make this deep."
The Tartars (13-1), who won their eighth consecutive game, will host Collins High School (10-2) at 7 p.m. Friday for the South State crown. The winner will play for a Class 2A state championship in Oxford.
The Tigers (12-2), who have won 12 consecutive games, defeated Bay Spring High School 22-8 Friday night.
"If they finished first in that (region), because we just finished just playing those two guys (Perry Central and North Forrest), then they must be pretty special," Robertson said. "We played them last year, and they had everybody coming back, so we kind of have an idea of what they've got.
"Man, I don't know. I'm going to enjoy this win right now. It's been two grinds the last two weeks, so I'm going to enjoy a little bit and I'll pick them up Sunday."
The game did not start well for Taylorsville. After forcing a three-and-out, Keyes saw his pass batted at the line. The air ball came down into the arms of freshman defensive tackle Mike Martin, who rumbled 10 yards for a score that put the Eagles ahead 6-0.
But on the ensuing kickoff, the ball initially went through arms of the return man and rolled back to the 28, where Roberts scooped it up and weaved his way 72 yards to tie the game 6-6.
"Man, you're sky high after that, and then you give it right back," Dillon said. "You don't hold the lead for then seven or eight seconds. That was a big momentum swing for us."
And Taylorsville took advantage. The Tartars recovered an on-side kick at the North Forrest 37 and needed just three plays to score, with Keyes finding junior Letreal Jones with a 9-yard touchdown pass and then hitting senior Malik Strickland with the two-point conversion for a 14-6 lead.
After forcing the Eagles to give the ball back on downs, Taylorsville went 62 yards on four plays, with Roberts breaking a tackle at the line on fourth-and-1 before racing for a 53-yard touchdown and a 20-6 lead after the first quarter.
"These last two weeks have been his best weeks since he's been there," Robertson said of Roberts, who ran for 114 yards against Perry Central the week before. "He's really stepped up and accepted the challenge. He's running the ball very hard and after first contact, he's getting two and three and four extra yards."
Keyes opened the second quarter with a receiver screen to the left to Jones, who made one man miss and then went down the sideline for a 50-yard touchdown and a 26-6 lead.
Croom was intercepted on a fourth-down pass by senior Parry Keyes at the Taylorsville 3-yard line to end North Forrest's next drive. But after two Roberts' runs went for 10 yards, Keyes followed an incompletion and then found junior Raven Arrington on a short pass that he broke 87 yards for a 33-6 lead.
North Forrest answered with its best drive of the game, going 80 yards to make it 33-12 with 5:27 left before halftime. Croom completed five of six passes for 78 yards, including a 17-yard pass to freshman Rhyen Brisco for a 17-yard touchdown.
But the Tartars went 56 yards in six plays, including a 22-yard, Keyes-to-Arrington completion and three runs by Roberts for 35 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown run and a 40-12 halftime lead.
Roberts added another 1-yard scoring run on the first drive of the second half, and each team recorded a safety to wrap up the scoring.
Brisco finished with nine catches for 160 yards and a touchdown and ran three times for another 15 yards.
Arrington had four catches for 119 yards and a touchdown, while Jones had three catches for 80 yards and two scores. Perry Keyes, who had two interceptions, had three catches for 27 yards.
Sophomore Tariq McCoy had 61 yards on 13 carries, all in the second half, and senior Beron Keyes added 47 yards on four carries.