RED SPRINGS — It was a possible dropped touchdown in the closing seconds of the first half that could’ve given the Red Springs football team a lead going into halftime that was on Nichorie West’s mind for much of the night, but that changed with a pass he was able to grab hold of with less than two minutes remaining that made him forget about the mistake.
Lakewood needed to march 89 yards in the final two minutes and score a touchdown to defeat Red Springs at home, but West saw an under-thrown pass on the second play of the drive and hauled in the game-sealing interception to give the Red Devils the 12-7 non-conference win at home on Friday.
“I missed the play on offense and it dropped through my hands. …That was on my mind for the rest of the game,” West said. “I made up for my mistake and I’m just happy they threw it toward me and I had a chance to redeem myself.”
In a defensive battle, it was the fourth quarter where the Red Devils defense got the takeaways that it was looking for all night that swung momentum in its favor.
Red Springs (3-1) trailed 7-6 heading into the fourth quarter and faced a fourth-and-inches from the Lakewood 5-yard line. Eric Graham was stuffed on the run and turned the ball over on downs back to the Leopards. Four plays later, a high snap went over Lakewood (3-2) quarterback Zach Tanner’s head and cornerback Bobby McRae beat Tanner to the ball to set up Red Springs inside the Lakewood 5-yard line.
“It was just effort and us executing, pounding them up front,” Red Springs coach Ron Cook said. “We just kept getting after them up front and we just stayed relentless getting after the ball.”
Graham scored the go-ahead touchdown from three yards out to give the Red Devils its first lead of the night with 9:49 left. Graham rushed for a game-high 87 yards.
Splitting handoffs with Graham was Justin Locklear who had 75 yards rushing and a touchdown in the first half to cut the Lakewood lead to 7-6 with 3:16 left until halftime. The running back tandem was able to break past a slow start and found running its lanes outside of the tackles.
“We didn’t really change much but we made sure that we understood where they were coming from as far as gap responsibilities and blocking the gaps we needed to be in,” Cook said. “They made the adjustments and did a lot to try and stop us from running inside and that’s where I think we got a lot running from bouncing outside with Buddy (Graham) and Justin.”
On its first drive of the second quarter, the Leopards broke the stalemate with a five-yard touchdown run from Carsell Bennett that capped off a 12-play 89-yard drive to give them a 7-0 lead.
“That one drive, I think we just missed tackles and I think we got a little fatigued,” Cook said. “That was the first time all night we looked fatigued. But other than that, I think we realized that we were bigger, faster and stronger up front.”
Outside of the touchdown drive, Red Springs’ defense held Lakewood to under six offensive plays per drive the rest of the night. Leading the defense was defensive end Jerome Bass who lived in the backfield for much of the game and finishing with seven tackles for loss.
“I was just using my speed as an advantage,” Bass said on how he got past the Lakewood offensive line. “Whenever they thought I was going inside, I gave them my little move and went outside.
“I see their (the defense) is doing better and better and we’ve got to work hard so next time we won’t let anybody score and we can get a shutout.”
Red Springs starts Three Rivers Conference play at home against St. Pauls next Friday.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.