North Johnston remains undefeated under first-year head football coach Jon Riba after a 27-13 victory over Rosewood Friday night.
“They’ve worked for every bit of it,” said Riba, who served as an assistant coach under Ashley Ennis last year before taking over the Panther program. “We didn’t take any steps backward tonight.”
The Panthers cashed in on an early interception in the first quarter and drove to the only score of the first half to go up 7-0 before piling on another three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to avenge a 41-20 loss last year at Branch Pope Field.
“Senior leadership helped us,” Riba said after the game, adding that he was pleasantly surprised by the work his offensive line has done in two outings, including a win last week over Louisburg. “Defense has been lights out for us.”
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Rosewood coach Robert Britt said the team’s offensive retooling – the Panthers shifted from a wing-T look last season to a spread offense this year – plays to the team’s strength.
“They have a quarterback who can run it,” Britt noted. “It was a good decision.”
Trey Whitley raced past the Rosewood defense for two touchdowns and 127 yards while throwing for two more scores.
Whitley’s rushing touchdown in the first quarter stood as the only score of the game until Rosewood tied it up late in the third quarter. The quarterback got loose for a score again with less than nine minutes to go in the fourth, putting North Johnston up 13-7 after a failed kick.
Rosewood’s offense sputtered, and after a three-and-out, the Panthers took over and Whitley connected for a 75-yard touchdown strike to Treshawn McPhatter.
Rosewood turned the ball over on downs and Whitley again found a teammate for a score, this time Michael Lawrence from 46 yards out to put the game out of reach. The Eagles added a score as time expired.
“It’s momentum,” Riba said. “It’s easier to coach and correct mistakes when you’re winning. They believe in what you’re doing.”