Middle Creek, No. 1 in The News & Observer area high school football rankings, overcame a wobbly first half to power past defending N.C. High School Athletic Association 3AA state champion Rocky Mount 37-25 on the road Friday night.
The Mustangs (2-0) turned the ball over four times in the first half, including an Artavious Richardson 20-yard interception return that gave the Gryphons a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter.
But the No. 4 Gryphons (1-1) managed only 67 yards on the ground in the second half, including 57 on their final drive when the game was out of reach.
“We needed that,” Mustangs coach Randy Ragland said of the early-season test. “We needed to be tested like that. The guys did a good job, and it was a tight game. They’re a heck of a football team, very-well coached, obviously, (since) they’re state champions. We expected a battle coming in here.”
Rocky Mount’s Chase Miller kicked a 26-yard field goal to put his team up 17-16 with 8:30 left in the third. But the Mustangs responded with the go-ahead score, a 1-yard DeAndre Jones run, and stopped held the Gryphons on fourth-down plays on consecutive drives while scoring two more touchdowns – the last a Jordan Mitchell 11-yard reception from Dominique Shoffner.
THREE TO KNOW
John Singleton, Middle Creek: The 6-foot-4, 215-pound senior linebacker/defensive end laid out Rocky Mount quarterback McKenzy Wright four times, once causing a fumble that Singleton recovered.
Artavious Richardson, Rocky Mount: The senior defensive helped the Gryphons to an early 14-7 lead. He recovered a Jones fumble that led to Rocky Mount’s first score, and he picked off a Shoffner pass and returned it for a TD one minute, 37 seconds later.
DeAndre Jones, Middle Creek: The junior running back had two touchdowns and ran for 50 second-half yards.
BY THE NUMBERS
199: Shoffner’s passing yards, though he completed only 12 of 27 passes. The Mustangs took several shots down the field, hoping to exploit Rocky Mount’s coverage.
“We missed some shots, but we kept taking the shots,” Ragland said. “That’s basically our philosophy: We’re going to keep taking shots.”
91: Including the 60 yards on Rocky Mount’s final drive and the Mustangs held the Gryphons to 91 total yards in the second half.
“Our whole defensive group did a good job,” Ragland said.
2: Detrell Revis picked off Shoffner in the second quarter, but he backtracked into the end zone and was tackled for a safety and a 16-14 Mustangs lead.
0: Turnovers in the second for Middle Creek. One fumble came on a Rocky Mount punt that hit a Middle Creek player, while a second fumble came on a Shoffner-Jones exchange. Shoffner also had two interceptions. But Middle Creek had better ball control in the second half.
“Made too many mistakes early in the game,” Ragland said. “Once we cut out the mistakes in the second half, we got to playing our football a little better there.”
THEY SAID IT
Asked if Wright would see Singleton in his dreams tonight, Singleton said: “I hope so. They put a guy over there block me, and I still got through like four times and hit him. I was trying to help him up, and I kinda felt bad, but it is what is.”