ROWLAND — The Plymouth football team has played in a NCHSAA 1A state championship football game every season since 2012, and to make it to a sixth straight it had to pick up a road win at South Robeson in the second round.
The defending state runners up had no trouble advancing to the third round on Friday with a 36-14 win over the Mustangs to keep the hopes of another title appearance alive.
Thanks to an offense that moved the ball effectively through the air and on the ground, the No. 6 seed Vikings (8-5) used a big second quarter to topple No. 3 seed South Robeson (3-9). On the opposite side of the ball, the Plymouth defense held the Mustangs to one offensive score and 115 yards of total offense.
“I thought we were on top of the game, we had guys in place to make the plays, but we didn’t make the plays,” South Robeson coach Clay Jernigan said. “You can do what you can to prepare them for it, but if you can’t make the play, you can’t make the plays.”
With their minimalist playbook, the Vikings had no problem using big plays passing and the power running of Samyr Cooper to build up its lead in the second quarter.
Up 8-0 after the first quarter, the Vikings stretched the lead out to 36-8 on three rushing scores by the junior fullback. Cooper scored on his first handoff of the game, an 18-yard dash up the middle early in the second quarter, then added a rushing touchdowns of nine and three yards later in the period to go up 30-8.
Senior quarterback Ayrn Gibson completed 6-of-10 passes against the Mustangs with two going for touchdowns. He connected with Ta’quan White on the third play of the game for 57 yards and then on the last play of the second half on a 32-yard pass to Elijah Carmack. The senior threw for 145 yards.
White hauled in four catches for 103 yards.
“We knew they had a good receiver and he can play,” Jernigan said. “When you take a guy that’s 6-foot-3 and a guy 5-foot-9 has got to cover him, you are at a disadvantage. The boy made some good plays.”
South Robeson failed to take advantage of two fumble recoveries in the first half while things were tight. On the Vikings’ second drive, Carmack coughed the ball up and Jaylen Mitchell scooped it up, and Plymouth fumbled the ball near midfield early in the second quarter. Both of the subsequent drives ended with punts.
Following Cooper’s first score of the game, South Robeson showed signs of life as Jaurius Davis returned the kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 14-8. The only offensive score of the game from the Mustangs came in the fourth quarter when they drove 40 yards and ended with a three-yard touchdown run from Darius Wright.
“We’ve just got to learn from it. We’ve got 17 guys coming back off of this team and hopefully they will get stronger and faster and get better as they get older,” Jernigan said. “Our future is bright, but we have to win it in the offseason.”
The three running backs from South Robeson combined for 102 yards with Darrius Brown 36 yards, Wright with 35 and Jamearos McLeod with 31 yards.
For the Vikings’ run game, Aaron Wilkins rushed for 86 yards and Carmack added 85 on a combined 16 carries between the two backs to average over 10 yards per carry.
Hendersonville cruises past Red Devils
Hendersonville was able to defend its home field by building up a large lead in the first half to top Red Springs 56-14 in the second round and advance to the third round.
No. 3 Hendersonville (10-3) built a 28-0 lead in the second quarter before No. 11 Red Springs (9-4) was able to find the end zone and then shut out the Red Devils in the second half.
Red Springs’ two touchdowns came courtesy of quarterback Denym McKeithan with one rushing and one passing score. The passing touchdown came on a more than 60-yard screen pass to Bobby McRae. On defense, Red Springs recovered two fumbles.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.