Prep Football: Statesville 24, South Rowan 21
By Bret Strelow
STATESVILLE ó South Rowan struggled with ball securityone week after teaching a lesson on the importance of it.
South, which forced eight turnovers during a decisive win against Northwest Cabarrus, lost five fumbles and committed a costly mistake on special teams in a 24-21 loss to Statesville on Friday night.
The Greyhounds’ four scores followed three fumbles and one botched punt attempt. Statesville’s first TD drive covered 43 yards, and the three remaining miscues in that mix occurred inside the Raiders’ 28-yard line.
“I can’t fault these kids in their effort; we just made mistakes,” South coach Jason Rollins said. “When you fumble the football, that’s going to hurt you. When you fumble in (your own) territory, that kills you.
“One thing that’s different about this group from last year is they don’t quit. They kept finding a way to get into it.”
South fullback Steve Sexton scored on a 19-yard run late in the third quarter, and Jacob Jester’s 35-yard extra point gave the Raiders a 21-17 lead.
South (1-3, 1-1 NPC) attempted to punt for the first time with 7:40 remaining in the fourth quarter, but a low snap and a penetrating rush translated into a 16-yard loss.
Statesville (2-2, 2-0 NPC) took over at South’s 20-yard line and scored four plays later on Keyon Harris’ 9-yard reception with 5:54 remaining.
The Raiders still had two timeouts left when they punted from their 39 with 4:34 left, and South regained possession at its 39 with 1:49 remaining. Statesville recovered a fumbled snap on third down.
“We did what we had to do when we had some momentum changes there a time or two,” Statesville coach Randall Gusler said. “They played really well up front on defense. Offensively, they execute the option about as pretty as I’ve seen in a while.”Deandre Harris and B.J. Grant scored first-half touchdowns for South, which held Statesville to 144 yards of total offense. Two of the Raiders’ three scoring drives lasted more than five minutes, but Statesville capitalized on short fields.
Josh Wike fumbled on the first play from scrimmage, and Statesville answered with a 10-play march. The Greyhounds ran nine more plays and gained 16 more yards in the half.
South tied the score when Harris, lining up behind normal D-line starters Cadarreus Mason and Kelsey Robinson, capped a seven-minute series with a 4-yard run. The Raiders regained possession at their 18, but quarterback Blake Houston released an errant pitch under heavy pressure on first down. Tyrell Bennett grabbed the ball at the 5 and scored.”We caused our own turnovers ó it was all us,” Rollins said. “It wasn’t anybody beating us in the head and knocking the ball out. That first one, you take it out, we did it to ourselves.
“Those are things we have to get better at. They’re learning to deal with adversity, and I think they handle adversity better than they ever have.”
Statesville burned a timeout with South facing a third-and-15 situation near midfield with 38 seconds left in the first half, and Harris reached the Greyhounds’ 19 on a 32-yard pass from Houston. Sexton stepped in to block a blitzing defender on the next play, and Grant made a diving catch in the end zone.
Houston made a late pitch with a defender in his face on South’s fifth offensive play of the third quarter, and Harris failed to come up with the ball. Statesville took over at the Raiders’ 27, and Jimmy Sappenfield booted a 36-yard field goal to break a 14-all tie.
South’s Dakota Walker recovered a fumble on the first offensive snap that followed Sexton’s touchdown, but South wasted an opportunity from the Statesville 23. The Greyhounds recovered an ill-advised pitch on first down.
“Just had a couple of loose edges out there, but we can do better,” said Mason, who forced a fumble on a sack of quarterback T.J. McCombs and had two other tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
“All we have to do is keep our head up because it’s not over. We win as a team, and we lose as a team.”