ST. PAULS — With his white jersey starting to turn into a light brown tint from the dirt that he had been diving on most of the game, wherever the ball was on Friday night at St. Pauls, Red Springs’ Jerome Bass seemed to be close by.
Bass and his uniform that looked the dirtiest of all the players for both teams after the Three Rivers Conference matchup, was chasing after tackles for a defense that held St. Pauls scoreless for three quarters, and was either setting up or being the benefactor of the Red Devil’s run game that amassed 349 yards. The senior knew what he had to do in the regular season finale.
“I just had play my role and do assignments,” Bass said. “I was preaching the fundamentals and assignment football and I knew we would come away with the victory. I was doing my best to support them and be that man to lead.”
Behind the play of its captain on both sides of the ball, Red Springs put another win on its playoff resume, and put a big hit in the Bulldogs’ with a 36-18 win on the road to spoil St. Pauls’ senior day.
Red Springs (8-3, 6-3 TRC) took an early lead, and never looked back in the win over St. Pauls (5-6, 5-4 TRC) to take a 30-0 lead in the third quarter, and deliver a shot of revenge following the 25-12 loss it took to the Bulldogs at home last season. That revenge was a small part of the driving force behind Bass and the rest of the Red Devils.
“We executed well, we held onto the ball and didn’t turn it over,” Red Springs coach Lawrence Ches said. “The offensive line blocked amazing. They dominated. We felt like the offensive line and the line of scrimmage in general was going to be the key to the game and we really did our best.”
On the first drive of the game, Bass ran for 57 yards on three carries, with the third being a 11-yard run up the gut to give Red Springs a 6-0 lead.
“After every time they finally got me, all I heard them scream how slow I was and stuff,” he said. “It felt good.”
While the St. Pauls offense struggled in the first half, unable to put up points and totaling 54 yards of total offense, Red Springs ground game was clicking behind the legs of Bass and sophomore running back Lee McLean. McLean added 53 yards rushing in the first half, to Bass’ 69, and had a two-yard score on the second drive of the game to put the Red Devils up 14-0 at halftime.
“We executed, our offensive line was physical, we secured the ball and 36-18 was the result,” Ches said.
After halftime is when the county’s leading rusher took over. McLean had 127 of his 180 yards rushing after halftime, with a fourth-quarter touchdown of 53 yards to answer St. Pauls’ first score of the game.
“The main thing I tried to do was play hard. We knew it was going to be a tough game we had to play harder,” McLean said. “They (the offensive line) played great. I knew I had to hold onto the ball and pound the ball every time we got it.”
Bass added a score in third quarter on a 16-yard run, and quarterback Denym McKeithan found the end zone on the first drive after halftime to push the lead to its largest at 30.
Quarterback Noah Wheeler led drives in the fourth quarter that produced the Bulldogs only points when he scored on the first play of the final quarter on a 15-yard run, then two drives later with a two-yard run and on a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jayden Suggs on the last play of the game.
“I thought we had a pretty good practice week,” St. Pauls coach Ernest King said. “Right now, I’m at a loss for words, but I know we’ve got a good football team. I didn’t expect this. I always tell my guys to be humble and hungry.”
The Bulldogs now will sit and wait for the playoff seeding today and see if their record will hold up.
Wheeler rushed for 145 yards to lead the Bulldogs and passed for 107 yards in the senior day loss.
To go along with McLean’s 180 yards rushing, Bass totaled 85 and Nichorie West had 69 yards rushing.
Fairmont outlasts South Robeson
FAIRMONT — Using 20 unanswered points in the third quarter, the Fairmont football team held off South Robeson with a 56-48 win at home on Friday.
The Golden Tornadoes (5-6, 4-5 TRC) were tied with the Mustangs (3-8, 3-6 TRC) early in the third quarter at 28-all after Darrius Brown picked off Fairmont quarterback Derrick Arnette and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown. Then Fairmont added space between the two teams as Malik Arnette added a rushing touchdown, Derrick Arnette connected with Jordan Waters for a 15-yard touchdown pass and Sidney McKeithan scored on a two-yard to go up 48-28.
Derrick Arnette passed for 246 yards and three touchdowns, while also being picked off twice. Malik Arnette rushed for 128 yards and three touchdowns. Waters had five catches for 61 yards and two touchdowns.
For the Mustangs, Darius Wright rushed for a game-high 141 yards and three touchdowns.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.