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3A Football Playoffs: East Rowan 14, South Brunswick 11

By David Shaw
sports@salisburypost.com
GRANITE QUARRY ó East Rowan’s first post-season victory in 12 years wasn’t a thing of beauty.
But Friday’s 14-11 overtime win against visiting South Brunswick still blew a few amps ó for both good and bad reasons.
“It’s great to win,”coach Brian Hinson exhaled after East shoehorned itself into the second round of the 3A East playoffs. “This community has been waiting a long time for this. But in all honesty, we got out-physicaled tonight. And no disrespect to South Brunswick, but I thought it would be a lot easier than it was.”
The Mustangs (9-3) will face the winner of today’s Southern Guilford-Havelock first-round game next Friday. They got there the hard way, rallying from behind in OT and clinching the win when Chris Moore scored on a 9-yard touchdown run on the game’s final play.
“More than anything, we’re relieved,” said quarterback Jamey Blalock, who scored on a 75-yard TD run in the first quarter. “That was a dogfight. They were fast, athletic and they played mean. I’m just glad we’ve got a game next week.”
South (5-6) punctured ER’s defense for 284 yards rushing, but did not complete a pass. The Cougars routinely lined up in tight formations and ó led by tailback Rashen Bellamy (21 carries, 128 yards) and punishing fullback Kenneth White (15 for 121) ó pounded the ball from tackle-to-tackle. At other times they’d use a pulling tackle and even quarterback Jonathan Marvin as lead blockers on quick pitchouts and sweeps.
“On film it looked like rugby,” Hinson said. “It was like scrum left and scrum right. It worked for them.”
“Not a lot of teams use that kind of offense,” added East linebacker Sam Edmonds, who made the last of three ER fumble recoveries. “They hardly passed. It’s something we weren’t used to at all. But at key moments we made key stops.”
The first of those came on South’s opening drive. The guests marched deep into East territory but failed to score when a botched handoff squirted loose and the Mustangs’ Wesley LeRoy recovered in the end zone.
East took an 8-0 lead late in the first quarter when Blalock knifed his way into the South secondary, eluded a couple of defenders and scored his ninth touchdown of the season.
“I was just running scared,” he said. “The defensive end crashed in and missed me. Then I split two tacklers and took off. No one could catch me, surprisingly.”
By halftime, it was 8-8, thanks to White. The 213-pound senior capped a 74-yard scoring drive when he drilled his way through East’s defensive line and into the end zone on a 5-yard blast.
Neither team threatened in the second half, though South advanced to the East 19-yard line before turning the ball over on downs early in the fourth period. The Mustangs won a coin flip before overtime and deferred, choosing to get the ball second.
“That was important,” said Hinson. “If we had gotten the ball first it might have turned out differently.”
South took the ball from the 10-yard line and was greeted by East’s steel-wall defense. On second down, Bellamy was wrestled down on the 4, and on third down White was stopped for a 1-yard loss. The Cougars settled for Devante Stanley’s field goal, but that was like getting 80 cents on the dollar.
“As soon as our defense held them, I knew we were gonna get them,” said Blalock. “Our motto lately is play hard, fast and physical ó every play, every day.”
The Mustangs took over and used Moore’s short run to reach the 9. On second down, the hard-nosed junior took a handoff and plowed into the end zone for the game-winning score. He was quick to credit an offensive line anchored by left guard Nathan Robbins and center Dalton Miller.
“It was one of our belly plays,” Moore said. “The hole was there.”
Robbins agreed. “As soon as we squared up, I had a feeling that would open up like the Red Sea,” he said.
It did, giving Hinson and Co. a victory no one could have anticipated when the season began.
“I say it every week,” he concluded. “These kids are over-achievers. Nobody counted them in, but they’ve proven they’re a good football team.”

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