First Posted: 1/15/2009
ST. PAULS -- David Lovette just found a lot out about his football team.
An early 13-point deficit in hostile territory didn't rattle Red Springs on Monday, as a three-touchdown outburst in the second quarter was enough to beat St. Pauls 28-19 in their Tri-Six Conference opener.
The victory marked the first conference win for the Red Devils (3-4, 1-0 TSC) since the league's inception last season, while the team has already won two more games than it did all of last year.
According to Lovette, the win is another sign that things are coming together.
“We talked about them, that they were gonna be fired up and come out and give it their best shot,” said Lovette, who is in his first year at the helm. “Our kids just showed a lot of class and a lot of character to come back and do what they did in the dag-gone second quarter. That's what we want Red Springs football to be about, and I think we made another giant step with our program tonight.”
The comeback would not have been possible without Craig McCall, who, despite registering just 38 yards rushing, still managed to come up with two key scores in the pivotal quarter.
McCall first found the end zone on a 7-yard scamper with 10:31 left in the second to cut the lead to 13-7, then decided to do a little more damage from his cornerback position when he picked off St. Pauls quarterback Adam Lowry and dashed 20 yards for the score. The point after by Francisco Vazquez gave the Devils a 14-13 lead with just over four minutes remaining in the half.
“He was sitting on that pretty,” Lovette said of McCall. “He knew what was going on there and did a great job.”
It was one of those quarters for McCall, who would have pulled off the rare trifecta had his 69-yard punt return for a touchdown not been nullified because of an illegal block in the back.
Red Springs shook off that mistake, however, and managed to grab one more TD just inside the one-minute mark of the second quarter. This time it was quarterback Robert McPhaul, who hit Frankie Lovejoy for a 28-yard score and a 21-13 lead.
It was a stunning turn of events for the Bulldogs (1-6, 0-1), who opened up the scoring in the first quarter with a 47-yard touchdown run by Eric Murphy and a 1-yard plunge from Kenneth Stephens.
The letdown had St. Pauls head coach Tasker Fleming shaking his head afterward.
“The game plan worked to a charm. We start off scoring on our first two possessions and we're up 13-0,” he said. “But we've got to finish quarters and finish halves. It was an opportunity that got away from us.”
Much of the collapse had to do with a sputtering Bulldogs offense, which tallied just three first downs and 84 yards of total offense in the first half. Lowry did not complete a pass in the first two quarters, and both of his turnovers led to Devils touchdowns.
It was a long night for the junior signal-caller, who was sacked five times and completed just 4 of 12 passes thanks to an offensive line that was caving in around him all night.
“The protection goes back to self discipline,” said Fleming. “When you're focused, you make plays and when you're tired it's harder to get focused. Obviously, it's an area we need to work on.”
Things didn't get any better for St. Pauls in the third quarter, as the team's three possessions resulted in a punt, a lost fumble and a turnover on downs.
The offensive shortcomings finally caught up with the Bulldog defense when it allowed fullback Charles Campbell to rumble in from 26 yards at the beginning of the fourth quarter to stretch the lead to 28-13. The junior finished the evening with a team-high 84 yards on 14 carries.
The Bulldogs added a late score when Stephens found pay dirt from 4 yards out, but the failed two-point conversion ended any thoughts of a comeback.
While grabbing a victory in the conference opener was important, Lovette said every win his team gets is especially gratifying.
“Well, you know, everybody picked us dead last,” he said. “In the coaches poll, our team didn't get one single vote, and don't think our kids hadn't thought about that, and don't think I hadn't thought about that. But we hope to make some noise in this thing before it's all over.”
Game notes -- The two teams combined for 21 penalties -- including two ejections -- totaling 142 yards … Red Springs recovered two squib kicks on kickoffs … Murphy finished with a game-high 86 yards on 17 totes … A fumble recovery by linebacker Jamason Campbell helped set up the Devils' first score … Red Springs was 0-for-4 on fourth down conversions.