Prep Football: Mustangs romp relentlessly and efficiently
By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY — East Rowan back Sam Wall steamed around the right corner on the first snap of the game, burst out of a pack of tacklers and blazed 65 yards to score.
Wall never looked back and the Mustangs never looked back on Friday against overwhelmed South Rowan.
East had eight possessions, scoring touchdowns on six and taking a knee on the others at the end of the first half and the end of the game.
East handled being an underdog against North Stanly in world-class fashion in Week 1. In Week 2, it handled being a favorite with equal assurance, taking care of business and taking care of South, 42-0.
“We prepared hard all week to play the way the game that we played tonight,” East center Hunter Eagle said. “We weren’t perfect, but we were good.”
East beat South (0-2) for the fourth straight time and is 2-0 for the first time since 2007. The Mustangs haven’t experienced a winning season since 2012, but that’s looking like a reasonable goal.
“We had zero penalty yards, and I don’t know if I’ve seen that before,” East coach John Fitz said. “I thought we got a lot out of all of our kids tonight. That was an efficient performance.”
The statistical leaders for the Mustangs were backs Sammy Pinckney (22 carries, 151 yards) and Wall (8 carries, 112 yards). Not counting the kneel-downs, East ran only three negative plays. Just about everything exploded forward 6 or 7 yards at a time with East linemen knocking the Raiders back. The Mustangs netted 322 rushing yards.
East QB Logan Forbis was 3-for-3, passing for 60 yards in the first half, but had only one completion after halftime. East was cruising by the break, 35-0, and Fitz wasn’t looking to rub it in.
“I’ve been on the other side of games like that, and it’s no fun,” Fitz said. “We said we were going to throw the ball a couple of times in the second half, but we weren’t going to do anything crazy. We were just going to keep running our basic offense and defense.”
The basics were good enough. East dominated in all three phases. When sophomore Isa’ah Cauthen scored a rushing TD with 5:12 left in the third quarter, it was 42-0, and the game resorted to a running clock.
After Wall’s instant touchdown energized the Mustang, scrambling South QB Drew Huffman lost a fumble near the East sideline on the Raiders’ third play from scrimmage. East’s Joe Plemmons secured the ball at the South 37, and the home team capitalized on the short field for an easy drive. Two-way powerhouse Christian Bennett barreled into the end zone for the score that made it 14-0 just five minutes into the game.
“You’re going to see more nights happen for us like this,” said Bennett a four-year starter who stars at linebacker and running back. “We’ve got a great defense and we’re going to cause some turnovers.”
South got a 10-yard run from Demarcus Blackwell and a desperate 17-yard sprint by Huffman on its next possession, but East got a stop near midfield, and pieced another scoring drive together that bridged the first and second quarters. Forbis hit Wall for 31 yards down the middle to get things started and finished the drive with a 15-yard strike to Gabe Hinceman for a 21-0 advantage.
“East did everything right and we did everything wrong,” South coach Daniel Yow said. “It was the perfect storm of good things for them and bad things for us. We got behind, and we had to play catch-up, and we can’t play catch-up.”
Blackwell was able to scrap for a few first downs on the ground and picked up another when he hauled a well-designed screen 22 yards, but Huffman was sacked three times before halftime.
Defensive standouts for East included Hinceman and Jesse Daubenmire, who had tackles for loss, and Cauthen, Bennett and towering defensive end Elton Hooper, who had sacks.
“We were well-prepared for their quarterback and shut down the RPO (Run/Pass Option) stuff,” Hooper said. “Our job was to keep the edge and contain the QB and then squeeze him and make him come to us.”
Pinckney punched in East’s fourth TD for 28-0 with 7:21 left in the half, and then Wall made another tremendous run for 35-0. Starting left, he found his planned pathway blocked, but he reversed his field and slashed back against the flow on a 9-yard scoring run.
“Sam is a great athlete and you’re never surprised when he makes a play like that,” Pinckney said. “All of us were ready to play and we did what we needed to do.”
The 15-year-old Pinckney showed that he’s the heir apparent to Wall, who is a senior.
“Before he finishes here, Pinckney is going to be one of the dominant players in the county,” Eagle predicted.
Blackwell came close to churning for a breakaway one hard-nosed run, but Hooper was one of the Mustangs who was able to chase him down. The long-striding Hooper sprinted 25 yards on that play.
East sophomore DB Tahj Young intercepted a pass in the end zone to stop South’s strongest scoring threat.
“You don’t want to be jumping for balls in your end zone all that often, but Tahj put himself in great position, and then he went up and made a play,” Fitz said.
Bryson Bebber had an interception for South, while Emilio Bernal had a sack and a breakup.
Yow knew from watching the Mustangs on film that East was a better team that the crew that beat South, 41-8, last season, so he had some apprehension about the matchup.
“East is good, very strong lines and with tremendous athletes behind them,” Yow said. “They’re a team that played to their potential tonight. We’re also a team with potential, but the execution just wasn’t there.”
East Rowan plays at East Chapel Hill next week. South will have its open week before it plunges into 2A Central Carolina Conference action.
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