RED SPRINGS — Frustrated.
Markeiss Blue can’t recall a time he was more disappointed on the football field than how he felt following last week’s three-touchdown loss at Eastern Wayne.
Defined by an early-season string of missed opportunities, rookie mistakes and unfortunate injuries, Red Springs’ shot at a third consecutive area-best campaign was dwindling and Friday’s game against winless South Johnston was the last chance to get back on the right track.
Unfortunately for the Red Devils, much of the same happened leading to a 50-28 loss.
“It’s difficult to describe … we’re young (as a team) and it’s like our minds aren’t really there,” Blue said. “It’s the mental aspect of it. We’re alright physically, but we aren’t there mentally.”
At 0-4, this year’s reversal of fortune will have to come during next week’s bye before the defending Three Rivers Conference champs open league play at South Robeson on Sept. 27. The Red Devils (0-4) fought back from a pair of 15-point deficits against the Trojans, but had little answers defensively for South Johnston quarterback Garrett Smith and his stable of wide receivers.
Smith torched the Red Devils for 272 yards and two touchdowns through the air, picking on Red Springs’ two best corners — Greene and McGeachy — for big gains in each half to leading target Devin Harris who averaged nearly 30 yards per catch.
Harris got behind McGeachy for a 79-yard score early in the second quarter for South Johnston’s first touchdown in a nine-quarter span. The Trojans were shutout in back-to-back losses coming into Friday’s game before erupting for 50 against the Red Devils.
McGeachy, Robeson County’s leading receiver, was disqualified in the fourth quarter after receiving his second consecutive unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
“We lost track on our assignments and what we were supposed to be doing out there on defense,” Blue said, a team captain. “Defensive backs wanted to play the run, then the pass killed us.”
After a shaky first quarter, quarterback Blake Greene bounced back from tossing a career-high six interceptions his last time out with the strongest performance of his senior season, throwing for 242 yards and three touchdowns. He connected on scoring passes spanning 6, 31 and 27 yards to three different receivers and also returned an interception for a 71-yard score, but it wasn’t enough.
“It’s like when we get down in games, we slowly stop playing,” Greene said. “It’s going to take heart to turn this around. Last year, we were down in games and came back to win, but we aren’t doing those same kinds of things this season.”
With his team trailing 31-16 midway through the third quarter, Greene stepped in front of Smith’s throw toward the home sideline and returned it for a score, the first defensive touchdown of his career. Greene’s 27-yard strike to Jaqwan McLaurin on the Red Devils’ ensuing possession pulled Red Springs within three, but that’s as close as it would get as the Trojans began moving the football at will on the ground.
South Johnston tailback Eric Bowles tacked on two fourth-quarter touchdowns to help clinch the Trojans’ first win and a 141-yard rushing effort between himself, Smith and Clarence Crawford.
Tailback Doody Lesane returned to the Red Springs starting lineup after a two-game absence and managed 107 yards on 16 carries. Lesane was responsible for two of his team’s turnovers with a pair of lost fumbles that led to touchdown drives for the Trojans.
Reach staff writer Brad Crawford at 910-272-6119 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.
S. Johnston 50, Red Springs 28
South Johnston 3 20 8 19 — 50
Red Springs 2 14 6 6 — 28
SJ — Yavanni Herrara 24 Field Goal
RS — Safety, Garrett Smith tackled in end zone
SJ — Devin Harris 79 pass from Smith (kick failed)
SJ — David Ennis 1 run (Brock Thornton pass from Smith)
RS — Dwayne Fairley 6 pass from Blake Greene (Hayden Bannick kick)
SJ — Harris 10 pass from Smith (run failed)
RS — Doody Lesane 31 pass from Greene (Bannick kick)
SJ — Smith 8 run (Ennis run)
RS — Greene 71 interception return (kick failed)
RS — Jaqwan McLaurin 27 pass from Greene (kick failed)
SJ — Eric Bowles 4 run (pass failed)
SJ — Bowles 14 run (Herrara kick)
SJ — Meija Javier 58 interception return
PASSING: RS — Greene 20-35-2-242. SJ — Smith 15-24-1-272.
RUSHING: RS — Lesane 16-107, Greene 8-15. SJ — Smith 8-61, Bowles 7-41, Crawford 5-39.
RECEIVING: RS — McGeachy 10-110, McLaurin 2-39. SJ — Harris 5-148.
RECORDS — South Johnston 1-3, Red Springs 0-4.