South Johnston battled hard and stayed close well into the game, but third-seed Rocky Mount rallied for 17 straight points in the second half to pull away from the Trojans, 34-20, Friday night in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A football playoffs.
While South closes out its season at 8-5, Rocky Mount (11-2) will host Morehead in the third round after Morehead upset second-seed Havelock, 42-35.
South Johnston fell behind 10-0. Rocky Mount drove 80 yards for its first score, a 29-yard run by Nick Bynum. Early in the second period Chase Miller added a 25-yard field goal for the Gryphons.
But South answered with a 71-yard drive, including a big-time catch by Fabian McDonald on a 49-yard pass from DeParis Patterson. Caeleb got the touchdown on a 4-yard run for a 10-7 halftime deficit.
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Rocky Mount opened the second half with a 4-play 49-yard touchdown drive that ended with quarterback Forrest Bell and receiver JaClayton Freeman hooking up on a 33-yard scoring play for a 17-7 lead.
Again, though, South answered with a 62-yard touchdown drive with Patterson scrambling and scoring on an 11-yard run, cutting the lead to 17-14 with 6:02 left in the third period.
Then South Johnston ran out of answers as Rocky Mount got a 5-yard touchdown run by B.J. Sanders, a 6-yard touchdown run by Bynum, and a 27-yard field goal from Miller to open up a 34-14 lead.
The Trojans' Kavante Johnson got in the last highlight with an 89-yard touchdown run with just over a minute to play to end the scoring.
The game ended the high school football experience for 25 South Johnston seniors playing their final game: Graham Swanson, Tyreekus Reddick, Chandler Johnson, Destine Easton, Kyle Dean, Eddie Glenn, David Carter, James Greene, Tyquandre Thompson, Josh Bunch, Ryan Holmes, Andrew Bussiere, Ethan Holmes, Kyle Denning, Raul Vasquez, Yovani Herrera, Austin Cooper, Donovan Guignard, Tyler Jones, Phillip Parry, Adam Britt, Anterio Sanders, William Moore, Devin Schindler, and Toronte Howard.