Sizing up the openers


Looking at the results of week 1 for Robeson County high school football teams, only one came away with a victory. But there’s much more to the tale than that.

Red Springs looked impressive Friday night as the Red Devils hosted the Sandhills Titans, whom they obliterated with strong offensive, defensive and special teams performances for a final score of 52-6.

But in many ways the road losses of other teams in hard-fought matches against theoretically superior opponents — Lumberton’s near comeback against Wilson Hunt and Fairmont’s battle with Westover — may hold more promise for good things to come from those teams.

The Sandhills Titans are not a proper high school, but a ministry team made up of high-school age players from a variety of places. They also aren’t very good.

To the Red Devils’ credit, both coaches and players knew they’d beaten a weak opponent as Friday’s game ended.

One assistant coach for Red Springs observed about their next opponent, Purnell Swett, that the Rams “ain’t no great team, but they ain’t this (Sandhills).”

The Devils have not yet been tested. And even against the Titans they showed a tendency to give up big-yardage plays at times. If not for some key turnovers, including the interception Tony Colson returned 44 yards for a touchdown, the score could have been much closer.

Still it’s worth looking at the clinic Red Springs put on Friday night:

The Red Devils’ yardage numbers would be more impressive, but they almost always started from midfield. And that’s good special-teams work, not to mention a defense that kept the game almost entirely on the Sandhills side of the field.

More telling, the Devils had only one negative-yardage play — in the game’s final meaningless seconds. And they never had to punt or kick a field goal.

Meanwhile Lumberton has been tested and came very close to pulling out a come-from-behind victory. If not for an officials’ ruling that a recovered onside kick hadn’t gone the required 10 yards, the Pirates could easily be celebrating their first victory.

One thing they did prove was that freshman quarterback Braylon Grice is the real deal, which he demonstrated with more than 150 yards of total offense, including a touchdown pass.

The Pirates also showed great resiliency in this game. They’ll have film to look at as they prepare for another tough road encounter, traveling to Pine Forest. And then we’ll see how they build on this opener.

Fairmont will get a week off before returning to play on Sept. 4 when the Golden Tornadoes host Ashley, a Wilmington school.

Despite running into a strong opening-week opponent, Fairmont put up some respectable offensive numbers.

Any defense that doesn’t take Julius Caulder seriously at quarterback is going to be burned.

Purnell Swett wasn’t able to keep up with Pine Forest during the Rams’ home opener. Quarterback Lucus Oxendine put up some good numbers, but their offense was unable to put together successful scoring drives.

They’ll get a more telling test next week when they visit Red Springs and try to exorcise the Red Devil scoring machine.

They’ll also see whether Red Springs’ defense looks as impressive against a team that passes more effectively than the Titans.

St. Pauls had a difficult opening night on the road at Grays Creek. The Robesonian picked this for our game of the week thinking it would be competitive. It wasn’t.

Bulldog Coach Trey Sasser said his team allowed itself to be outplayed. St. Pauls faces another challenging opponent in its home opener with Douglas Byrd this week before hosting East Bladen on Sept. 4.

The question in those games will be whether St. Pauls can turn the corner and prove that the Bulldogs were only outplayed in the first game, not completely outmatched.

South Robeson suffered a road loss to West Bladen during the Mustangs’ season opener. Coaches picked them to finish near the bottom of the Three Rivers Conference.

The Mustangs will be at home against Trask this week and have a chance to show they’ve learned from costly mistakes in that first outing and whether they can rise above low expectations from others.

The numbers are in for week 1. But you can bet they’ll be big changes in the stats as the season continues. Some will stay near the top or the bottom. But others will falter.

And a few will rise up beyond what anyone expects.

Top Performers

— Julius Caulder, Fairmont, QB, 229 yards passing, 2 touchdowns

— Ronald Alexander, Red Springs, RB: 197 yards rushing, 3 touchdowns

— Jarique Moore, Fairmont, WR, 189 yards receiving, 2 touchdowns

— Braylon Grice, Lumberton, QB: 118 yards passing, 1 touchdown; 33 yards rushing

— Lucas Oxendine, QB, Purnell Swett, 91 yards rushing, 54 yards receiving

— Troy Mitchell, Lumberton, RB, 81 yards rushing, 2 touchdowns

— Jamarie Fletcher, Lumberton, WR, 74 yards receiving, 1 touchodown; 1 yard rushing

— Montae Alford, Red Springs, RB, 50 yards rushing, 1 touchdown

— Deondre Hallman, Red Springs, Sr., RB, 27 yards rushing, 1 touchdown, 1 two-point conversion

— Tony Colson, Red Springs, CB, 1 interception with a 44-yard return for a touchdown

— Jerome Bass, Red Springs, DE, 3 tackles including 1 sack for a loss

NOTE: Detailed statistics and rosters were not available for all schools during week 1.

Frank Taylor | The Robesonian It takes two Titan defenders to bring down Red Springs senior running back Montae Alford in the first quarter of Friday’s game.
http://robesonian.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/web1_082115-Red-Springs-vs.-Sandhills-Titans-football-1241.jpgFrank Taylor | The Robesonian It takes two Titan defenders to bring down Red Springs senior running back Montae Alford in the first quarter of Friday’s game.

Rodd Baxley | The Robesonian Leyland McDonald of Grays Creek sizes up St. Pauls sophomore cornerback Caleb Inman during Friday’s game.
http://robesonian.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/web1_IMG_40841.jpgRodd Baxley | The Robesonian Leyland McDonald of Grays Creek sizes up St. Pauls sophomore cornerback Caleb Inman during Friday’s game.

Frank Taylor | The Robesonian Sandhills Titan ball-carrier “Crash Burns” runs out of room to maneuver as Red Devil sophomore defensive tackle Jerome Bass closes in from behind, making the tackle a few seconds later.
http://robesonian.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/web1_082115-Red-Springs-vs.-Sandhills-Titans-football-2081.jpgFrank Taylor | The Robesonian Sandhills Titan ball-carrier “Crash Burns” runs out of room to maneuver as Red Devil sophomore defensive tackle Jerome Bass closes in from behind, making the tackle a few seconds later.
Red Springs looks powerful; Pirates so close; others have work to do

By Franklin Taylor

[email protected]

 

Top Performers

— Julius Caulder, Fairmont, QB, 229 yards passing, 2 touchdowns

— Jarique Moore, Fairmont, WR, 189 yards receiving, 2 touchdowns

— Ronald Alexander, Red Springs, RB: 155 yards rushing, 3 touchdowns

— Braylon Grice, Lumberton, QB: 118 yards passing, 1 touchdown; 33 yards rushing

— Lucas Oxendine, QB, Purnell Swett, 91 yards rushing, 54 yards receiving

— Montae Alford, Red Springs, RB, 90 yards rushing, 1 touchdown

— Troy Mitchell, Lumberton, RB, 81 yards rushing, 2 touchdowns

— Jamarie Fletcher, Lumberton, WR, 74 yards receiving, 1 touchodown; 1 yard rushing

— Deondre Hallman, Red Springs, Sr., RB, 27 yards rushing, 1 touchdown, 1 two-point conversion

— Tony Colson, Red Springs, CB, 1 interception with a 44-yard return for a touchdown

— Jerome Bass, Red Springs, DE, 3 tackles including 1 sack for a loss

NOTE: Detailed statistics and rosters were not available for all schools during week 1.

 

Reach sports editor Frank Taylor at 910-816-1977 or email him at [email protected]

 

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