Red Springs coach George Coltharp warned his players throughout the week prior to Friday’s game against South Robeson that overlooking the Mustangs could prematurely squash the program’s hopes of a Three Rivers Conference championship.
Apparently, they listened.
After sputtering for the better half of two quarters, the Red Devils turned a tight contest into a rout after intermission, downing South Robeson, 53-13, for their fourth consecutive victory.
A win next week at West Columbus wraps up the school’s first league title outright since 2004.
“This is for the Class of 2013 and we want to get it done,” said Zach Leach, one of 15 Red Springs seniors honored before kickoff. “We win as a team, but our seniors have really carried us.”
Red Springs (7-3, 4-0) had three turnovers, was penalized nine times and had three touchdowns called back in first half before erupting for 22 points in a pass-happy third quarter that put away South Robeson, which came in fresh off its first conference victory in three seasons.
Blake Greene tossed three of his six touchdown passes during the frame including a 76-yarder on a slant at the 4:07 mark.
“It was one of my shortest halftime speeches ever,” Coltharp said. “I told the guys to go fix it and they said ‘OK’.”
Coming into Friday’s game, Greene ranked in the state’s top 5 for quarterbacks in several statistical categories, including yards (2,389) and touchdown passes (30). Against the Mustangs, he finished 20-of-33 for 372 yards passing. He added 160 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Greene set up the Red Devils’ touchdown on their opening drive with a 58-yard scamper and later added a 75-yard burst on scoring drive in the second half. Leach, Greene’s go-to target on third down, added to his county-leading touchdown total for receivers with three scores and 113 yards on eight catches.
“They do what they do really well,” South Robeson coach Stephen Roberson said. “We didn’t tackle well in the second half. They’re a good team that puts a lot of pressure on you. They know how to execute.”
South Robeson (3-6, 1-3) got on the board in the second quarter on a beautifully executed halfback pass from Deshawn Hamilton to Shaunqell Thompson. On third-and-long, Hamilton found Thompson streaking down the left sideline for a 46-yard touchdown that cut a 12-point deficit in half.
Thompson added a second touchdown catch in the third quarter, but the game was quickly out of reach soon thereafter. The Mustangs mustered just 41 yards after intermission and struggled at the line of scrimmage against Red Springs’ physical defensive line.
“Obviously, the storyline is always the offense, but our defense is pretty darn good,” Coltharp said. “When I hired Coach (Ron) Cook as the defensive coordinator in the spring, I told him we were going to put him in a bad position and not take a lot of time off the clock.
“I wanted an attacking style defense. He’s came in and really been a great addition for us.”
Last week’s star, C.J. McGeachey, contributed two more touchdown receptions and picked off a pair of passes on defense. Red Springs held the Mustangs to one touchdown in five trips to the red zone and forced six turnovers leading to 34 points.
South Robeson kept a six-play, 30-yard drive alive late in the second quarter on a nifty direct snap fake punt by Jay Couser, but the drive stalled inside the Red Devil 20.
Red Springs played without starting tailback Jedarian Lesane who sat out with a concussion and JuJu Brown, the squad’s two-time all-county wideout who is out for the season with a knee injury. Lesane’s status for next week’s regular-season finale is uncertain.
Despite not having their top weapon in the zone read rushing attack, the game plan didn’t change according to Coltharp. Brandon Smith carried it five times for 60 yards as the next guy in line.
“Our plan is to always throw screens until they get tired and then run the ball when we can,” he said. “There’s no sense in running into nine people when we don’t have to and South Robeson did a good job of stacking the box. They did a good job in the first half of kind of confusing us and giving us different looks.