Second-year coach George Coltharp says he couldn’t be more proud of his Red Springs football team after Friday’s 34-24 playoff victory over sixth-seeded Pender, a squad that executed its smashmouth game plan to near perfection on the road against the Three Rivers Conference champion.
“We needed one like this,” Coltharp said after his team gave up a season-high 394 yards rushing and saw a three-touchdown lead dwindle to 10 in the second half. “Two years ago, we might have folded against this type of adversity. Heck, we didn’t handle adversity well at all last season in the third round at Wallace-Rose Hill.
“This is good for our guys.”
Red Springs (10-3) gets a shot at redemption next week with another trip to the third round, this time at top-seeded and unbeaten James Kenan who was a 28-14 winner over Union. The Red Devils handed the Tigers their last loss in the 2011 1AA second round.
“We’ll look at some things, fix a few holes and get it going again,” Coltharp said. “I told the guys the most important thing about tonight is we’re practicing again on Monday.”
Against Pender, Red Springs overcame a disastrous third quarter that included a lost fumble, two onside kick recoveries and a pair of lengthy conversions for touchdowns to keep its season alive.
“Obviously, we’ve got to do a better job of getting off the field on fourth down,” Coltharp said. “But these are kids doing the best they can. They’re a bunch of 16, 17 and 18-year-olds. We weren’t playing the school of the poor. We knew Pender was a good ballclub after what they did last week.”
Pender (6-6) hasn’t faced an offense quite like Red Springs’ no-huddle all season in the run-heavy Tri-County Conference and it showed early. Quarterback Blake Greene led touchdown drives on his team’s first three possessions, capped off by Zach Leach’s 81-yard touchdown reception off a screen early in the second quarter.
After the Red Devils recovered an onside kick on the opening kickoff, Jedarian Lesane punctuated a six-play, 49-yard drive with a 15-yard scoring scamper for the game’s first points. Following a Pender fumble deep in Red Springs territory, the Red Devils responded with with a methodical 14-play drive that covered 92 yards. C.J. McGeachey scored the first of two touchdowns on the night on a well-executed shovel pass from 10 yards out.
Red Springs led 21-0 before Pender got on the scoreboard following Devin Hansley’s 55-yard toss sweep touchdown with 6:23 left in the opening half. Hansley finished with a game-high 142 yards rushing on 15 carries, but it was a pair of 40 and 33-yard touchdown runs in the third quarter from Nicky Wells and Caleb Johnson that frustrated the Red Devil defense.
On 4th-and-12 at the Red Springs 33 midway through the third, Johnson scored on an end around despite what appeared to be a false start by Pender center Jordan Rowell. Johnson’s touchdown brought the Patriots within 10 at 28-18 after the two-point conversion was stuffed.
“They came out in some formations we hadn’t seen,” Red Springs linebacker Markeiss Blue said. “We had to just buckle our chin straps and play and focus on what we were doing wrong.”
After Blue picked off an errant pass from Wells early in the final frame, Greene put the game away with a 10-yard corner route to Zach Jones for a touchdown giving the Red Devils a 34-18 lead. Pender turned it over four times and came away empty on 4-of-5 trips inside the Red Springs 25-yard line.
Greene finished with 270 yards passing and four touchdowns, upping his season total to 60. Seven of 16 completions went to Leach who picked up 180 yards receiving, 144 coming after the catch.
Williams reaches 2,000-yard plateau but St. Pauls' season ends at Reidsville
REIDSVILLE — St. Pauls winningest season since 2007 came to a close Friday night, as the Bulldogs were put on the ropes by Reidsville, 50-18, in the second round of the 2AA state playoffs.
St. Pauls senior running back Shawn Williams rushed for 50 yards on 15 carries to cross the 2,000-yard barrier this season, finishing with 2,007 yards in his final campaign as a Bulldog. He entered Friday’s contest needing 43 yards to hit 2,000.
It was Reidsville, however, that did most of the chain-moving Friday night.
The Rams (11-2) opened with a 21-6 first-quarter lead and never let up. St. Pauls (9-4) couldn’t keep Reidsville tailback Jayron Rankin out of the end zone as he finished with four touchdown runs on rushes of 3, 13, 4 and 5 yards.
“We knew they were a strong running team coming in,” St. Pauls coach Trey Sasser said. “The intensity ratchets up after the first round and we didn’t match Reidsville’s.”
The Rams, who have won 18 all-time state titles, knocked the Bulldogs out of the playoffs in 2007 with a 57-point third-round win.
“They’re a good football team and they’re used to playing at home, being in the playoffs,” Sasser said. “That’s where we’re trying to get our program. To the point where it’s a common occurrence to compete and move along in the playoffs.”
St. Pauls’ offense was led by quarterback Kane Banner who threw for 214 yards on 7-of-18 passing with three touchdowns. Banner opened the Bulldogs’ scoring with a 4-yard pass to Deion Gilchrist in the first quarter. The tandem hooked up again in the second on 54-yard pass. Banner’s third touchdown came on a 66-yard strike to Jhamel Leonard in the third.
Banner added 29 yards on the ground on 13 carries.