ROWLAND — When it comes to making plays, Fairmont’s Jarique Moore is accustomed to working his way on a highlight reel.
But normally it’s as a wide receiver. On Friday night against South Robeson, the senior was called on to play quarterback after Julius Caulder went down with an elbow injury late in the first half.
Moore delivered, accounting for three touchdowns, including two on the ground in a dominating 56-12 win for the Golden Tornadoes in their Three Rivers Conference opener in Rowland. He hauled in a 22-yard score, ran for a 12-yard score and capped his night with a 66-yard touchdown run.
“Being a leader, I knew I had to be ready to step in, knowing I’m capable of playing both positions,” said Moore, who racked up 108 rushing yards out of the read option. “I just wanted to step in and keep making plays.”
The performance came as no surprise to Fairmont coach Mark Heil.
“He’s just a great athlete,” Heil said. “I had a discussion with him and his father today about the mental part of it, to take what God’s given you and work it 100 percent every day. That’s what turns the average player into a great player. He has to work hard every day.”
The Golden Tornadoes (2-3) racked up more than 400 yards of total offense, including 282 on the ground, en route to scoring their highest point total since putting up 64 in a win over St. Pauls last season.
“Our running game was very good,” Heil said. “If we can keep running the ball and stop the stupid penalties and be more disciplined, we’re going in the right direction.”
While Moore stole the second-half spotlight, it was running back Halijah McLean who got the Fairmont offense rolling. The senior rushed for 106 yards in the first half and scored a pair of touchdowns.
“I wanted to come in and break their (South Robeson) spirits,” said McLean, who finished with 113 yards on 11 carries. “I wanted to let them know I was coming and our offensive line was a lot better. It felt like Julius never left (when Jarique came in). We kept it upbeat.”
With the game tied at 6-all early in the first quarter, Fairmont reeled off 34 unanswered points to carry a commanding 40-6 lead into the break and never looked back. Caulder accounted for a pair of touchdowns before leaving the game late in the first half.
The Fairmont defense had its best performance of the season, finishing with three takeaways, including a fumble recovery by Brent McDonald that he returned for a 50-yard score in the first half.
“We’ve improved in the last two weeks,” Heil said of the defense. “We’ve found some better things on defense with our personnel. Against the Wing-T you want to penetrate. We had more turnovers (against South Robeson) than the other games combined. That made a difference.”
When they weren’t turning the ball over, the Mustangs (0-4) were plagued by penalties throughout the night.
Cameron Werrell accounted for both of South Robeson’s scores, throwing a 70-yard bomb early in the first quarter to tie the game at 6-6 and hauling in a 22-yard pass for the final score of the game. He finished with 111 yards of total offense, including a trio of receptions for 41 yards. Emanuel Thompson led the Mustangs on the ground with 84 yards on 10 carries.
Nafountay Cromartie scored Fairmont’s final touchdown on a five-yard run.
South Robeson will host St. Pauls on Friday, with Fairmont set to host Whiteville.
Looking ahead, Heil said he’s more concerned about the status of his squad moving forward, not the opponent.
“Whiteville is a big game and we have them at home, which is good, but we just have to keep getting better,” he said. “That’s all we’re focused on. We have to practice harder and better.
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.