HOPE MILLS — Intensity.
That’s the word St. Pauls coach Trey Sasser kept coming back to after his football team lost 55-6 to Grays Creek on Friday night.
“(Grays Creek) just outplayed us, plain and simple,” Sasser said. “They had more intensity and we didn’t match that intensity.”
“We know every year that they’re a good team, that’s why we want them on the schedule. But if you don’t match the effort they’re giving, you’re going to get blown out, which we did.”
Grays Creek (1-0) set the pace for the game on its first play from scrimmage, when Leyland McDonald took the ball to the house on a 35-yard rushing touchdown.
McDonald led a devastating rushing attack for the Bears, rushing for 123 yards and three touchdowns — with all of his scores coming in the first half.
The Bulldogs (0-1) gave up 406 yards on the ground, with McDonald and Diondre Hicks each notching over 100 yards on their own. Hicks finished with 110 yards and an 83-yard score. T.J. McMillan added a pair of rushing touchdowns to round out the four-man rushing attack.
The success of the Bears offense came as no surprise to Sasser, who called it “a well-oiled machine.”
“It’s been that way for a long time,” he said. “That’s why we like to play them. You’ve got to be in shape and bring some intensity when you play them.”
What did come as a surprise to Sasser was his team’s “lack of effort.”
“I don’t think the game effort matched our effort from practice (this week),” he said. “… so I was a little disappointed in that.”
Offensively, the Bulldogs totaled 144 yards, committing three turnovers, including a 63-yard interception return for a touchdown by T.J. McMillan before halftime, giving the Bears a 48-0 advantage at the break.
“We depend on the passing game a lot,” Sasser said. “We had a lot of dropped passes tonight. Not being able to execute that takes away a lot of what we’re trying to do.”
The second half was less eventful with the running clock full in effect. The Bears scored their final touchdown of the game on a three-yard scamper by freshman Leonard Beckett.
The Bulldogs scored their lone touchdown of the night with under five minutes to play when Cody McKenna connected with James Patterson in the back corner of the end zone for a 13-yard score. Patterson finished with 13 yards on three receptions.
Senior Christan Edwards led the St. Pauls defense with six tackles, including three for a loss. He also helped the Bulldogs force a pair of fumbles.
Sasser is hopeful his squad will have a short memory as the season progresses.
“We told them after the game that it’s just part of the season,” he said. “It’s a long year. We still have goals that we’re trying to reach. We’re going to work toward those season goals.”
The Bulldogs will look to get back on track in their home opener next Friday against Douglas Byrd.
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.