Things are looking up for Fairmont’s football program heading into Friday’s conference opener after last week’s come-from-behind win at Jones Senior. Charlton Townsend, Naim Bellamy, Silas Oxendine and Luke Hunt all return from suspension at South Robeson Friday and lead the Golden Tornadoes up front in defense of consecutive Three Rivers titles.
“It’s a new season for us and all of our guys are really excited for it,” Fairmont first-year coach James Atkinson said. “They know the position they’re in, but it’s about bonding together and making it happen.”
The 28-20 road victory began in a disastrous way for Fairmont after Jones’ Warren Fields scooped-and-scored on a 75-yard fumble return on the Golden Tornadoes’ first possession of the game.
Fairmont quarterback Jarrod Neal shook off the dropped shotgun snap to throw for 223 yards and three touchdowns, leading his team back from a two-touchdown first-half deficit. Two of his scoring tosses were to Deshawn Fields who made a pair of acrobatic receptions over the top of Jones’ secondary.
Neal also made it happen with his feet, scoring on a 15-yard keeper.
“Jarrod made some really nice throws when we had to make plays,” Atkinson said.
With just over two minutes remaining, the Golden Tornadoes recovered a wobbling squib kick with an eight-point lead to seal the deal. South Robeson spent its off week preparing for Fairmont’s spread offense, looking at ways to eliminate the Golden Tornadoes’ big-play potential on the outside.
Fairmont has won its last 13 conference games while the Mustangs have lost 11 straight.
“I think our guys have been looking forward to conference,” South Robeson coach Stephen Roberson said. “Who knows what will happen, but we’re just trying to improve practice-by-practice and week-to-week.”
St. Pauls wins going away
ST. PAULS — St. Pauls’ train kept a-rollin’, all night long.
And, surprisingly, so did the defense after a few early hiccups.
The Bulldogs backed a prolific offensive performance from Kane Banner and Shawn Williams Friday night with a convincing effort on defense, suffocating the East Carteret Mariners, 68-12. Senior corner Jhamel Leonard picked off his county-leading sixth and seventh passes to lead a unit that gave up just a handful of big plays in the opening half, much better than it had fared the previous few games.
“It was time to make a statement because we know how we’re capable of playing (on defense),” Leonard said. “We were tired of hearing about it. It was personal.”
The other side of the ball accumulated more than 400 yards for the sixth consecutive game as St. Pauls won its fifth contest straight by double digits. Backup running back Daymien McMillan had a pair of long touchdown runs called back for holding in the fourth quarter but the Bulldogs still managed 355 yards rushing on 25 carries.
In limited action, Williams averaged 10.9 yards per attempt and scored two touchdowns.
After being held without a catch the first two weeks of the season, Deion Gilchrist has six touchdown receptions over his last four games. He trails only Red Springs’ JuJu Brown and Zach Leach in receiving yards with 366.