By the final horn, however, a battered and bruised bunch of Red Devils crowded in the end zone searching for answers after their season came to a close in abrupt fashion, 68-41.
“They basically executed everything they wanted to,” Red Springs senior linebacker Quinn Lowery said. “We didn’t fill the holes the way we were supposed to and pretty much beat ourselves. Not a good way to go out.”
James Kenan rushed for more than 500 yards, picked off four passes and scored twice in a three-minute span in the third quarter to turn what was a see-saw battle in the early going into a one-sided knockout.
Just before halftime leading 28-21, the Tigers completed their only pass of the game — a 23-yard touchdown on 4th-and-5 – to end Red Springs’ momentum. Then, on the opening kickoff of the third quarter, James Kenan pushed its lead to 21 when T.J. Fullwood returned an onside kick 54 yards for a touchdown.
The Tigers (13-0) scored on their next three possessions to push out front 62-21 before Jedarian Lesane scored from two yards out to end the onslaught. James Kenan harassed quarterback Blake Greene into four interceptions despite the junior playmaker finishing with 205 yards through the air and three touchdowns.
“They’re really, really good,” Red Springs coach George Coltharp said. “They were probably the fastest team we’ve played all year.”
In the first half, Red Springs had several first downs wiped away via penalty. The Red Devils were flagged 13 times before the break compared to three whistles for the Tigers. On an interception near midfield late in the second quarter, it appeared a James Kenan defender was running off the field when the ball was snapped, but the play stood.
The Tigers went on to cash in Red Springs’ first mistake with the score on fourth down and few plays later.
“We had some things not go our way that were out of our control,” Coltharp said.
The Red Devils (10-4) ended the Tigers’ season in 2011 in the second round but James Kenan returned the favor at home with a relentless ground game and dominant defense. Red Springs finishes with 10 wins for the second straight year, only the second time that has happened in school history.
“Winning 20 games in two years is a testament to these kids’ character,” Coltharp said. “I’ve got a good group of kids. We kind of got taken out of our rhythm and never could get it back.”