Prep football: East Rowan 28, Hickory Ridge 22
By Paul Hershey
HARRISBURG ó East Rowan posted shutouts in each of its first two victories this season.
Friday night against Hickory Ridge, the Mustangs found a way to win despite surrendering 20 points in one quarter.
Led by the big-play ability of junior Quentin Sifford and a defense that stiffened big-time in the second half, East rebounded for a 28-22 victory to improve to 3-1.
Sifford’s 56-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter gave the Mustangs the lead for good. He added a 5-yarder in the fourth quarter to go along with an early touchdown pass.
“It feels good,” he said. “We just came here and wanted to play hard. We got fussed at (at halftime) because we gave up 20 points, but we came back and we won the game.”
They did so by following the formula laid out by head coach Brian Hinson after they had squandered an early 14-0 lead.
“I was very unhappy with the way our defense played in the first half,” Hinson said. “We kind of challenged them. We told our defense you’ve got to pitch a shutout in the second half and offensively you’ve got to score two touchdowns. And our kids came out and did that. They played with a lot more heart and determination, and that’s what I’m proud of.”
Sifford’s go-ahead score capped a wild sequence to begin the second half.
East lost a fumble on the second-half kickoff, but Hickory Ridge fumbled it right back on the next play. The first of two fumble recoveries in the game by lineman Jesse Meismer gave the Mustangs a second chance.
Sifford took full advantage, taking an option pitch to the left, cutting back up the middle and running away from the Hickory Ridge defense to put East up 21-20.
“I just saw green grass, I took it and made a couple cuts and got good blocking from the receivers,” he said.
It was the first carry of the game for Sifford, who returned from offseason arthroscopic surgery two weeks ago against Salisbury and is slowly working his way into the offense. He finished with 73 yards on just five rushes.
“Quentin’s a tremendous athlete who’s got a lot of potential,” Hinson said. “As a 200-pound running back who is physical, he’s hard to tackle, but he’s also got pretty good speed as you saw on that option pitch that he ran. He’s got some athleticism and versatility that adds a new dimension to our running game.”
Sifford scored again to make it 28-20 with 6:56 left in the fourth quarter. The touchdown was set up by a 41-yard run on a keeper by quarterback Jamey Blalock ó one of five plays of more than 20 yards in the game for East’s improving offense.
After his second scoring run, Sifford made his presence felt on defense. Coming off the corner on a blitz, he hit HR quarterback Nick Moelle as he threw, forcing the ball to flutter. East’s Jordan Hopper intercepted.
“I said, ‘I gotta go,’ ” Sifford said of being unblocked on the play. “It was my chance to hit him and I hit him.”
Said Hinson: “He’s been making plays at outside linebacker for us since he’s been back. Last week, I think he had three sacks so he’s turning it up and making plays.”
After the interception, the Mustangs ran more than two minutes off the clock but missed a 31-yard field goal that would’ve iced it.
Hickory Ridge (2-2) started at its own 20 with 2:10 left, but after two complete passes, Shawn Galloway came up with an interception on a deep pass down the sideline. Following three Chris Moore runs, Blalock took a safety as time ran out for Hickory Ridge’s only points of the second half.
“I think they stepped up to the challenge,” Hinson said of his team’s defense, which held Hickory Ridge to just 84 yards in the second half and forced six turnovers in the game.
Preston Troutman caught two TD passes that covered more than 50 yards for the Mustangs ó one from Blalock and one from Sifford.