RED SPRINGS — It was a tale of two scrimmages for Red Springs at the football jamboree it hosted on Wednesday night for its first on-the-field tune-up before the start of the season in a week and a half.
Through it all, Red Devils coach Ron Cook saw his team’s progression through the preseason compared to last year.
“I’m pleased where we are at. We’ve still got a ways to go, but I think we are a lot further ahead at this point than we were last year when we came out and scrimmaged,” he said.
Along with Red Springs playing in the jamboree was South Robeson, Sandhills Titans, Westover, Word of God and South Stanly.
The Red Devils capped off the night against 3A Westover, whose defense made it tough early on before Red Springs was able to piece drives together for scores. The game was both teams’ second straight game on the night and fatigue set in for the Red Devils, who had less depth than Westover.
“Even when we got tired and it looked bad at times, we came back like we did against Westover after that first series,” Cook said. “We came back and made a couple nice plays defensively and started to move the ball a little bit offensively.
“I scheduled it like that on purpose for that effect to challenge them a little bit.”
In the opener against South Stanly, Red Springs took control on both sides of the ball facing a team that had played a scrimmage before facing the host team. A stifling defense, headed by defensive lineman Kenston Oxendine and Jerome Bass, set the tone early keeping South Stanly from gaining any positive yardage for its first seven plays with the two lineman coming up with several tackles for loss in the span.
“I think we did a good job running to the ball on defense,” Cook said.
The run game took over for Red Springs against South Stanly and worked off a slow start against Westover in the team’s second scrimmage. Eric Graham and Justin Locklear split time at running back for the offense and each has their own style of running and the power running of Marquise Ray helped open up the offense after being stopped during Red Springs’ first series to Westover.
“It’s a change of pace with Eric and Justin. It’s two completely different backs,” Cook said. “Buddy (Graham) has a little more strength to him and he’s a little harder to tackle, and then we have Justin who is a little bit quicker inside and getting outside on the edge. I think we will have a good attack there.”
Graham had a rushing score and a receiving touchdown in the two scrimmages. He also had an interception against Westover.
South Robeson took on Word of God and Sandhills Titans and coach Clay Jernigan saw his team come out of its shell on the field.
“I can see a lot of nervousness and I think tonight helped us get out of the nervousness,” Jernigan said.
The Mustangs stood tall in the shadows of their goal line in each of their scrimmages with goal-line stands. In the first scrimmage against Word of God, South Robeson kept their opponents out of the endzone.
“We had a goal-line stand and they (Sandhills) had four plays and we gave up one touchdown and on offense we had four plays and scored three times and had a busted play,” Jernigan said. “I saw a lot of positives, hard working and running hard, but we’ve just got to get better fundamentally.”
The scrimmage was the first time South Robeson hit the field for its new offense with Darrius Brown at quarterback.
“I thought Doodle (Brown) took good leadership,” Jernigan said. “I saw Jariaus (Davis) run hard and take leadership, I saw Darius Wright our fullback run the ball hard. All our backs run the ball hard, we’ve just got to hold onto the football and know where to go.”
South Robeson quarterback Darrius Brown cuts back up field against Word of God in the Mustangs’ opening scrimmage.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.