The Bulldogs’ new-look, hurry-up offense went turnover free and kept the Bears guessing with a balanced diet of power runs and deep passes down the sideline. But on defense, a group thin on depth, St. Pauls had no answers for Kendall McDowell and Gray’s Creek’s rushing attack.
“I remembered a game we had with West Bladen back in 2008 or so, I think it was 52-51,” Sasser said. “It kind of reminded me of that. Neither team did a very good job of stopping anybody. Those kind of games leave you speechless.”
Sasser would like to think scoring seven touchdowns in any game would be enough to win, but not in this season’s opener against a squad that averaged 12.2 yards per play. The Bears picked up 26 first downs and averaged 12.2 yards per play while not completing a pass on their way to 717 yards offense.
St. Pauls cut a two-touchdown deficit to single digits on four separate occasions, but couldn’t get the necessary stops down the stretch to alter the outcome. Gray’s Creek scored 42 points in the second half and engineered three touchdown drives in the fourth quarter that lasted three plays or less.
“They just beat us up, it’s as simple as that,” Sasser said. “We’ve got to do a better job as coaches getting our guys to be more excited and less business-like on defense. They have to fly to the ball.”
What did go right for St. Pauls was its balanced, senior-led plan on offense. Running back Shawn Williams scored three touchdowns, Jhamel Leonard scored two different ways and 3-of-8 total completions went to the end zone. Quarterback Kane Banner threw for 172 yards and hooked up twice with Javon Crawford for long touchdowns.
The Bulldogs won the time of possession battle by seven minutes and ran 71 plays, the most in three seasons. The practice routine shifts to defense this week for the Bulldogs as they try and even their record at Fayetteville Christian (1-0). On the other side of the ball, just a few tweaks are needed according to Sasser.
“Execution-wise, it’s one of the best offensive performances we’ve had here,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we were unstoppable, but I was pleased with our effort.”
Pirates do what they do best
Daniel Robinson knew he was the center of Lumberton's game plan Saturday morning at Cape Fear. On a muddy turf filled with divots and wet spots, Robinson was directed to carry the football and follow his blocks.
"It was so bad we just told him to run straight ahead," Lumberton coach Mike Brill said. "We couldn't do much of nothing with the field in the shape it was. Our defense made a few stands and the offensive line played a lot better than it did the previous night."
Lumberton's senior workhorse rushed for 265 yards and four touchdowns as the Pirates finished off the Colts, 27-3, in a game that was postponed on Friday due to inclement weather. While the players got some rest after returning home late Friday night, the coaching staff stayed at the school and revised the scheme on both sides of the football.
Brill said he crossed his fingers that the Pirates would come out of Week 1 unscathed in sloppy conditions, but Lumberton did lose Allen Thompson to a dislocated shoulder in the second half.
His status for this week's game at Jack Britt is uncertain.
Greene, Red Springs prep for Stallions after emphatic win
After putting the finishes touches on a nine-touchdown effort in the middle of the third quarter, Red Springs’ Blake Greene took off his helmet and congratulated the first team offensive line on helping to put up 60 points at West Bladen.
The junior quarterback’s night was done — after 468 yards of total offense — and more importantly, he was only sacked twice.
“It was a team win and we all contributed,” Greene said. “You like to know your teammates have your back and all our guys feel that way about each other.”
The Red Devils will take that same family mentality into their home opener Friday against South Columbus (1-0), a ranked 2A program led by Pharoah McKever, an N.C. State commit who plays multiple positions for the Stallions. Next season, Red Springs and South Columbus will be foes in the same conference.
Last season, the Red Devils went unbeaten in seven games at “The Inferno”. “They’re a lot like us with all the athletes,” Red Springs coach George Coltharp said. “It should be one of the marquee games in the state with both teams being ranked.”
Back to drawing board for Rams, Tornadoes
Mark Heil says Purnell Swett’s offense is still a work in progress, a unit searching for playmakers. At Fairmont, James Atkinson says his team’s out-of-sync outing in his head coaching debut was a result of preparation.
The Rams and Golden Tornadoes both fell flat when they had the ball in last week’s openers, combining for just four first downs and two touchdowns. Swett turned the ball over seven times in a 19-6 loss at Pine Forest while Fairmont’s 19-6 setback to Union was the program’s first regular-season defeat in 16 games.
Atkinson put the blame on coaches, saying the team wasn’t ready to play. Heil alluded to mistakes being the difference and commended his defense’s performance. Fairmont travels to Hobbton (1-0) this week. The Rams entertain Western Harnett (1-0), a 26-6 winner over South Robeson on opening night.
For two teams expecting a goose egg in the loss column at this junction, a victory in Week 2 is a necessity.
“We’re going to be ready,” Fairmont wide receiver Chaise Tolbert said. “Ready to play and start the season off the right way, not on the wrong foot.”