10/21/04 — Prep football game of the week -- Rosewood playoff hopes run through Spring Creek

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Prep football game of the week -- Rosewood playoff hopes run through Spring Creek

By David Williams
Published in Sports on October 21, 2004 1:56 PM

Rosewood has made 15 playoff appearances in its football history. Early in the season, fans were beginning to wonder if the 2004 Eagles would be able to make it back for a 16th trip.

But while some fretted over wins and losses, Rosewood coach Daniel Barrow kept his eye on steady improvement against a quality non-conference schedule -- teams like Charles B. Aycock, Roanoke Rapids, Hobbton and Chocowinity Southdside.

Rosewood (2-1, 3-5) opened at 1-4, but has won its last two Class 1-A Carolina Conference games to climb into second place in the league -- including a big 31-30 win over Farmville Central.

"Some years, many of the non-conference teams we play may not have been as strong as usual," Barrow said. "But this year, Charles B. Aycock has the finest team they have put on the field in the last few years. Roanoke Rapids is beating teams with ease and Southside is undefeated and state-ranked. Hobbton is still very strong.

"We hit our non-conference schedule when all of them were strong, and those things happen when you schedule good competition. We were not playing poorly -- it was who we were playing."

Spring Creek (1-3, 1-7), Rosewood's opponent this week, has struggled as well. The Gators have lost two of their last three games, but still have playoff expectations. Spring Creek played well in the second half at Farmville Central last week, and coach Roy Whitfield is hopeful that the emotion his team showed can carry over to Friday night.

"Rosewood is very versatile on offense," Whitfield said. "You can't key on just one person. I'm impressed with their defensive line as well -- they get after the ball and do the little things good."

Spring Creek has one of the area's top football talents in Lelo Burt. The senior has snared five touchdown passes and is the area leader in receiving at 89 yards per game.

"Lelo is very important for us," said Whitfield. "We talked before the season started that we need the ball in his hands about 15 times a game, as a receiver, or on kickoff return, or punt returns. We have been able to do that so far."

Quarterback Josh Wright picked up the job a few games into the season and has responded well, throwing for 85 yards a game on average and tossing three TD passes.

"This game is big for them because we are in the same conference and the same county, and we have to go to their place," said Barrow. "We had a dogfight last time we were there, and we had to win it in the closing seconds. They have an athletic quarterback who is very dangerous. Of course, they have the fine receiver who can go up and get the ball and stick it in the end zone very quickly."

Rosewood's offense has been prolific, to say the least. Quarterback Danny Langston is the only qurterback to throw for more than 1,000 yards so far and completes 52 percent of his passes. Senior receiver Dustin Overman has seven TD catches and averages 79 yards a game in receptions, while teammate Kyle Grey has 23 catches and five touchdown passes. Derrick Bennett is among the area's top ten rushers at 78 yards a game and six touchdowns.

"They are the type of team ... the more you run it, the better they get," said Whitfield. "They're playing their best football."

For the Gators, Wright leads the team with 371 rushing yards, while Ricky Mason has accounted for 325. Jason Buchtmann has been a productive runner for Spring Creek, as well.

Rosewood has struggled to stop teams this season, and "that's something we have mentioned," said Whitfield. "We have got to do a better job of moving the football and get as many chances to score as we can. They are capable of scoring on any drive. We have to find a way to stop them a couple of times."

Like Rosewood, the Gators have had their share of defensive trouble. Spring Creek allows 316 yards a game so far -- so on paper, the game appears to have the makings of an offensive feast.

"It's just getting our guys to believe they can win the game," said Whitfield. "They have to play their best game of the year."

Rosewood's kicking game got a boost when Brandon Heitpas, who was injured during a soccer match early in the week, recovered and will be ready for the game.

"We have to try to contain the quarterback on defense and slow down Burt," said Barrow. "Offensively, we have to be very patient and take what they give us. We are not one dimenstional. We have a great receiver corps and Danny's doing a fine job of reading defenses, but at the same time our option is what we hang our hat on, with the misdirection and counter game.

"We are excited about the challenge in front of us."

The Gators end the season playing an out-of-conference game at home against Northampton-East on Oct. 29 and finishing the season Nov. 5 at North Duplin. The playoffs are a possibility for Spring Creek, but they need a few more wins to escape a first-round meeting with a top-ranked team. The Gators have been blown out by Wallace-Rose Hill in the opening round of the playoffs for two of the last three seasons.

The Eagles have had a week off to prepare for the big push to the end of the regular season. After taking on a tough Spring Creek team in Seven Springs Friday night, Rosewood will have a home game with North Duplin before ending the season at Princeton.