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Late first-half surge sparks South Rowan to victory

By Dennis Davidson

dennis.davidson@salisburypost.com

LANDIS — South Rowan’s offense compiled 530 yards in a 48-28 victory over West Davidson here Friday, the most points the Raiders’ have scored since 2009.

But don’t underestimate the South defense’s contribution to the Central Carolina Conference win.

The Raiders’ undersized defense had to combat the Green Dragons’ big offensive line and two extra large running backs. And while South allowed 220 yards on the ground, coach Daniel Yow’s defense came up with five turnovers and big stops at the right time.

“It was a great win,” said Yow, whose team improved to 2-5 overall and 2-3 in the CCC. “Both sides of the ball played awesome. Going into the game, we knew that their offense wanted to control the ball and pound their big running backs.

“If you look at the stats, I’m sure that they had a ton of rushing yards on us and quite a few passing yards as well,” continued Yow, “but at the end of the game, we’re up 20 points and that’s all that matters.”

West Davidson’s “two-headed dragon” of Terrell Hardin and Harrison Gobble, both juniors, combined for 237 yards. Hardin, at 5-10 and 215 pounds, rambled  27 times for 169 yards while Gobble, 6-1, 230, ran for 68 yards on 17 attempts. Hardin scored twice and Gobble once.

“We practiced tackling those guys all week,” said South linebacker Jarrid Nelson, a 6-0, 205-pounder. “We had our linemen in the backfield to practice because those boys are big. Instead of five linemen, it was like they had seven. We just practiced all week on hitting low and we figured out real quick in the game that we couldn’t hit them high.”

The game turned for South late in the first half, when West (1-6, 0-5), trailing, 19-14, was driving for a possible go-ahead score. Gobble picked up three yards on a run to the South 45-yard line but was swarmed under and fumbled. South’s Christian Reynolds recovered at the Raiders’ 36.

With just 1:05 left in the half, South pulled out its secret weapon, although it’s become such a staple for the Raiders, it’s really not a secret — the old hook and lateral.

Quarterback Drew Huffman fired a nine-yard pass to receiver Jarron Hines, who instantly pitched the football to the speeding Cameron Hurd. Hurd tip-toed down the South sideline, gathered his balance then blazed easily to the end zone.

“It’s a play that we work at and practice a lot and it’s in our repertoire,” said Yow. “It’s one of those plays when we need a quick score because it’s hard to defend. Again, we practice it and we made it work, but we had a lot of great plays by some of offensive kids. I can’t even remember all of them because there were so many and they were so exciting.”

Now down 25-14 with just 53 seconds left, West wasn’t satisfied with just heading to the locker room. In hindsight, the Dragons probably wish they had taken a knee to end the half.

Instead, on the first play of the next series, West quarterback Drew Tedder’s pass near the sideline was picked off by South defensive back Bryson Bebber, who returned it 15 yards, to the West 10-yard line.

That play took eight seconds. Seven more seconds later, South slotback Barrett Thompson went 10 yards on an end around to the end zone. Thompson also caught a two-point conversion pass from Huffman for a 33-14 halftime lead.

It had been a first half of big plays for the Raiders. Thompson had a 29-yard scoring run in the first quarter and added the second of his three TDs eight minutes later on a 19-yard pass from Huffman.

In the second period, nursing a 13-7 lead, running back Michael Sloop dashed 89 yards for a dazzling touchdown. The extra point was blocked. After a 6-yard TD run by West’s Hardin, the Raiders added the two scores inside the half’s final minute.

West’s Tyler Gentel returned the second-half kickoff to the South 45-yard line. A seven-play, short-field drive ended with a 2-yard plunge by Gobble, making it 33-21.

After a South three-and-out, West got to midfield in three plays but then the Raiders’ defense stiffened. Despite the field position, the Dragons punted, and had South starting a possession at its own 18-yard line.

No problem for the Raiders. On the first play, Huffman hit Hurd on a quick out, and just like the hook-and-lateral, Hurd was in the open field and was not going to be caught from behind. The 82-yard scoring play and another two-point conversion made things comfortable again at 41-21.

West scored again in the third period, but South shut out the visitors in the final quarter.

“In the second half, we gave up a touchdown early, but was able to recover and continue to make plays,” said Yow. “Those running backs are huge. We joked in our meetings that if they played here, they’d probably be playing offensive or defensive line.”

South added another TD with 6:17 left in the game on a 6-yard run by Sloop.

Huffman had a big game, completing 10-of-14 passes for 239 yards and three TDs. He also rushed for 44 yards and would have had more without sacks mixed in.

Sloop led South on the ground with113 yards on just nine attempts. Thompson added 76, also on nine carries. Hurd led the receivers with 137 yards on the two big touchdown plays — even though the hook-and-lateral doesn’t count as a catch for Hurd.

NOTES: The 48 points are the most for South since scoring 76 against Statesville nine years ago. … Bebber grabbed his second interception of the game in the waning minutes. … In addition to Reynolds, Jordan Baker and Corey Hartsell had fumble recoveries for South. … West’s kicker, Andrew Brown, drilled all five of his kickoffs into the end zone and made all four PATs. He also punted three times for a 44-yard average. … South travels to Thomasville next Friday.

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