Blue Devils top rival Hawks
Published in Sports on September 11, 2005 2:08 AM
By BRYAN C. HANKS
Courtesy Kinston Free Press
LAGRANGE -- They're not upsets anymore.
South Lenoir improved to 4-0 for the first time since 1996 and for only the fifth time in school history as the Blue Devils downed archrival North Lenoir 21-12 in the 42nd annual Pigskin Classic in Wheat Swamp.
The victory also clinched the inaugural Freedom Cup, presented by The Free Press to the team that finishes with the best record in the Kinston-North Lenoir-South Lenoir series. The Blue Devils beat Kinston 28-0 two weeks ago.
"There is no better feeling than beating North Lenoir," South Lenoir senior quarterback Brandon Rouse said. "I couldn't feel any better."
Senior receiver Joseph Skinner said "it took us four years to do it, but we finally got it done. We felt we had something to prove, and we did it."
The Rouse-to-Skinner connection was certainly a successful one. The two connected three times for 104 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown in the third quarter that gave South Lenoir a 21-6 lead.
It was the second time in the game the pair burned the North Lenoir secondary for a long gain on the same play.
"That combination was something we wanted to hit last week (against West Craven)," South Lenoir coach Lee Atkins said. "We tried two or three times but could never make it work. But (North Lenoir) stayed in Cover 2 and just gave it to us. We decided before the game we were going to try it against them; we did it three times and hit it twice."
The play -- a bootleg by Rouse combined with a run fake and multiple receivers -- picked up 39 yards in the first half and the 53-yard score in the second.
"I'm not sure it's really designed for me, but I seem to be open on that play a lot," laughed Skinner.
The Blue Devils jumped out to a 14-0 lead at halftime, thanks to a 13-yard touchdown run by Jamere Moore and a 9-yard touchdown run by Rouse. Both scores came in the final 4:47 of the first half.
North Lenoir reacted quickly in the second half as Tyrone Spencer rumbled 52 yards for a touchdown run only 48 seconds into the third quarter. But Rouse's long pass to Skinner quelled the Hawks rally less than 90 seconds later.
The Hawks were without starting quarterback Andrew Manning for the final three quarters. The junior injured his leg on the final play of the first quarter and was in street clothes in the second half on the sideline.
North Lenoir coach Wayne Jackson refused to blame the injury for his team's loss.
"It hurt us, because he's the guy that gets the majority of the reps," Jackson said. "But that's part of football. Your backups have to be able to step in and do the job. (Sophomore backup) Kenduall (Thorbs) did a good job. But that wasn't the deciding factor tonight."
Spencer led all rushers with 143 yards on 17 carries. Eric Whitfield rushed 12 times for 77 yards, while Thorbs had the other NL score on a 1-yard plunge in the fourth quarter. North Lenoir (1-1), which finished with 233 rushing yards, hosts West Craven next week.
South Lenoir's balanced attack proved to be the difference in the game. While North Lenoir didn't complete a single pass in the game, Rouse completed five for 115 yards. Moore finished with 56 yards on 12 carries while Rouse had 46 rushing yards on 14 hauls as South Lenoir ended up with 139 yards on the ground.
"Everything clicked tonight," Rouse said. "The offense, the defense, everybody came together."
The win was South Lenoir's first of the season when they were considered the favorite. The Blue Devils are off next week before hosting Croatan in the first Class 2-A East Central Conference game of the season on Sept. 23.
"It's not over," Atkins said. "These kids believe in each other."
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