3A Football Playoffs: R-S Central 28, South Rowan 21
By Bret Strelow
LANDIS ó Jacob Nance, still wearing his red South Rowan helmet, sat on the black ‘S’ at midfield of Donnell Stadium as teammates consoled each other a few feet from the senior linebacker.
South’s first-round playoff game had ended 20 minutes earlier, but time wasn’t making the result easier to swallow.
The Raiders, enjoying their best season in more than 25 years, lost 28-21 against R-S Central in 3A action Friday.
“The years they put in, the time they put in, it’s just hard to see it come to a close like this,” fourth-year South coach Jason Rollins said. “They are a great football team to go 9-2 in the regular season and accomplish goals that people constantly questioned, ‘Could we do it?’ We knew we could as a team.”
R-S Central (9-3) had two late kneeldowns and rushed for 398 yards, the biggest total against South since East Rowan produced 448 in 2007. A.L. Brown, with 287 rushing yards in an August loss, was the only opponent to amass at least 220 against the Raiders (9-3) in the 2009 regular season.
R-S Central opened the fourth quarter with a 93-yard touchdown drive that broke a 21-all tie, recovered a South fumble in the end zone with 5:49 left and milked the clock with a 13-play possession.
“They overpowered us off the edge,” Rollins said. “We made adjustments at halftime, and we came out and actually started slowing it down. Their momentum started picking up, and the adjustments we made kind of crumbled in our face a little bit. We tried to readjust again.”
Mark McDaniel (68-yard punt return), Thomas Lowe (1-yard run) and Blake Houston (14-yard keeper) helped South take a 21-14 lead into the break, and the Hilltoppers tied it on quarterback Jake Kinlaw’s sneak midway through the third quarter.
Preston Penninger’s 36-yard punt pinned R-S Central at its 7 to begin the final period, and William Lynch gained 28 yards on a first-down carry. Kinlaw scrambled for 13 yards on third-and-5 from his own 40.
A 1-yard run by Cameron Green capped the 12-play series and pushed R-S Central ahead with 6:57 left.
McDaniel returned the kickoff 52 yards to the Hilltoppers’ 37, and Lowe broke into the secondary on first down from the 18.
A strong defensive play at the 7 forced a fumble by Lowe, who led South’s offense with 136 hard-earned yards, and Marqez Carson recovered the ball in the end zone.
South had one timeout left and couldn’t force a punt. With R-S Central facing a third-and-6 from its 24, Kinlaw’s only completion allowed Vic Staley to gain 16 yards.
“It’s a pass pattern we’ve completed about 75 percent of the time this year,” coach Mike Cheek said.
The Hilltoppers converted a third-and-short before South had to use its last timeout, and R-S Central advanced inside the 20 as time ticked away.
Other than a shutout loss to West Rowan, only Northwest Cabarrus had held South scoreless for an entire half.
“It’s hard to believe it’s over,” said McDaniel, a junior.
R-S Central took a 162-4 advantage in rushing yards to the second quarter, and the score was even only because of McDaniel’s punt return.
McDaniel caught the ball at the 32 and maintained his balance near midfield as an R-S Central player tried to pull him down from behind.
“Great blocking from my teammates,” said McDaniel, a starting DB. “My team set it up, and I just returned it. They were beating us on defense and we couldn’t move the ball, and that spark there set us up.”
Touchdowns by Lowe and Houston gave South a seven-point lead, and it received to begin the third quarter.
Hoping to establish a two-TD edge that would force R-S Central to change its offensive approach, the Raiders reached the Hilltoppers’ 32. A block in the back, hold and sack left South facing second-and-41 from its side of the field.
“We kept it at a one-touchdown game,” Rollins said. “That’s what kept them driving and staying in their offense, and that hurt us.”
Salisbury’s third-round 2A boys soccer match against East Lincoln at Ludwig Stadium has been rescheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m.... read more