PEMBROKE — The Purnell Swett High School football team felt disrespected heading into Friday night’s game against Jack Britt.
“Jack Britt said, ‘It was just Purnell’ and that motivated us,” said Rams running back Al’Drique Thompson. “We wanted to come out and beat them. We got beat last year too, so we came out motivated.”
Using the fuel from a blowout loss at Jack Britt last season and some trash talk throughout this week, Thompson scored two touchdowns to lead the Rams to a 23-8 win over the Buccaneers in Pembroke.
“It’s big,” said Thompson, who finished with 117 yards on 25 carries. “We wanted to come out and attack, trust the o-line, my quarterback and execute the plan.”
Using the read option, Thompson and quarterback Luke Oxendine kept the Buccaneers (2-3) off balance throughout the night, finishing with 180 yards on the ground.
“Our running backs have been running great,” said Rams coach Jon Sherman. “We saw the read option, and we thought if they could bite on that, Luke could pull it or (hit a receiver). He pulled that sucker.”
But Jack Britt continued to fight. Trailing 16-8 with 1:48 left in the fourth quarter, the Buccaneers had the ball with a chance to tie the game, but Purnell Swett senior Jessup Oxendine had other ideas. After all, he didn’t want the offense to get all of the love after the game.
Oxendine snagged consecutive interceptions on the final two plays of the game, including a 23-yard interception return for a touchdown to extend the lead to 23-8, sealing the third straight home victory for the Rams (3-2).
As the ball came floating his way, Oxendine said he knew “we got a win.”
“I had to put it in the end zone,” he said. “I just wanted to do that for my team.”
It’s the kind of performance Sherman was looking for after his team’s lopsided 46-6 loss last week at Westover.
“I’m an emotional guy,” Sherman said. “We didn’t show up last week and that’s my fault as a coach. I thought we were resilient this week at practice. Jack Britt has been in the upper echelon and our kids fought really hard.
“Our guys finished the game well. I’m just proud of them for rebounding after getting their butt whooped (at Westover).”
Sherman was also impressed with Oxendine’s ability to bounce back after a rough summer.
“I’m happy because the kid has earned it,” he said. “I gave him the corner spot and he got beat up all summer during 7-on-7 (drills) but he’s gotten so much better and he’s proving that. I told (the defense) I wanted two picks tonight and we got ‘em, and I wanted to take one to the house.”
For three quarters it was all Rams, as Thompson scored on runs of four and seven yards and Brayan Azua made a 23-yard field goal to give Swett a 16-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Jack Britt broke through in the fourth quarter on a 32-yard pass from Kennique Bonner-Steward to Will Stover. Shawn Petty’s two-point conversion trimmed the lead to 16-8 with 11:08 to play, but the Rams locked down on defense for the remainder of the contest and the offense continued to take time off the clock.
Luke Oxendine finished with 40 rushing yards on 11 carries and the Rams’ defense held Jack Britt to 97 yards of total offense.
“This gets us on track,” Sherman said. “It’s a good step for us. That’s a team that’s been really good for a long, long time.”
Thompson broke a scoreless tie late in the first quarter to give Purnell Swett a 7-0, which it carried into halftime.
The Rams will close their non-conference slate at New Hanover next Friday.
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.