Making some history
By Steve Roush
Published in Sports on October 23, 2005 2:19 AM
Spring Creek coach Roy Whitfield waited a long time for this moment.
Five years, to be exact.
And for 12 Gators seniors, the wait was nearly as lengthy.
Cross-county and conference rival Rosewood had owned the new kids on the block, handing Spring Creek 59-12, 35-28, 45-7 and 28-12 losses from 2001-04.
The drought, however, is over.
Spring Creek rolled up 326 yards on the ground Friday night and held the Eagles offense to just 48 yards and three first downs in the first half as the Gators picked up a 30-19 triumph -- their first win in school history against Rosewood -- on Homecoming night at Branch Pope Field.
The victory also ensured Spring Creek (5-4, 2-1 Class 1-A Carolina Conference) will finish the 2005 season with its best record in school history.
"For our seniors who have been in this program for four years, this was especially for them," Whitfield said. "And for this whole team, this was a big conference win."
Behind an offensive line of seniors Chris Davis, Wes Denham, Josh Gates, and juniors Chris McSwain and Jason Sutton, the Gators ran the ball a whopping 57 times. The strong running game combined with the offensive line's size wore down the Rosewood defense in the second half.
"We were really able to get our power running game going in the second half," Davis said. "We were focused ... finally beat a team we always wanted to beat, and we're putting together the best season we've ever had.
"We're proud of that."
Senior running back Ricky Mason ran for a game-high 139 yards on 23 carries, with fellow senior Lelo Burt adding 77 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Junior quarterback Josh Wright added 63 rushing yards and ran for a score. Junior running back Ronnie Butler finished with 47 yards and a touchdown for the Gators.
The visitors got off to a great start, scoring touchdowns on their first two possessions.
A 38-yard run by Mason put the ball inside the 10 on Spring Creek's opening possession of the night. Wright capped the nine-play drive with a 5-yard touchdown run to make the score 6-0.
Wright -- who finished up 1-of-4 passing for 14 yards with an interception -- completed his only pass of the night to Butler on third-and-13 to keep Spring Creek's second drive alive. An 11-yard run by Burt, a 20-yard jaunt by Wright, and runs of 10 and 7 yards by Mason put the ball at the Rosewood 16. Burt took the football the rest of the way to score his first TD of the night and give the Gators a 12-0 lead after one quarter of play.
Rosewood (1-7, 0-3), however, ran just four plays in the opening period. The Eagles managed one yard of total offense and fumbled the ball away toward the end of the quarter.
"Spring Creek did a fine job today," Rosewood coach Daniel Barrow said. "They gave our offense a lot of trouble early and put us in a big hole."
The Gators upped their lead to 18-0 early in the second quarter when sophomore linebacker Jaelyn Lee ripped the ball away from Rosewood quarterback Brantley Ellis and raced 58 yards for a touchdown.
The Spring Creek offense, however, sputtered in the second quarter -- fumbling the ball away on three consecutive drives and losing the ball on downs on another.
The Eagles capitalized on one of Spring Creek's fumbles, driving 29 yards on four plays as junior halfback Devon Bennett capped the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run to cut the Gators' lead to 18-7 at the half.
"Rosewood stayed in the ball game after we jumped out to that 18-0 lead," Whitfield said. "They forced some turnovers and we shot ourselves in the foot a few times with the fumbles and penalties."
Wright was picked off on the Gators' first drive in the third quarter, and their other drive bogged down and resulted in just a 7-yard punt. But Rosewood couldn't capitalize on the opportunity as the Eagles offense ran just 11 plays in the third quarter and managed just two first downs to go along with no points.
"We stopped them in the third quarter, and that was huge," Whitfield said. "Then in the fourth quarter, our offense started clicking a little bit and we were able to sustain some drives."
Spring Creek went to a straight I as the fourth quarter began and started pounding the ball at a tiring Rosewood defense.
A 10-play, 61-yard drive that chewed up more than five minutes resulted in a 2-yard touchdown by Butler. After a three-and-out by the Eagles, Spring Creek ripped off a three-play, 60-yard drive. An 11-yard run by Mason and 10- and 39-yard runs by Burt put the ball back in the end zone. The Gators held a commanding 30-7 lead with 4:12 to play.
"We were looking forward to this one," Burt said. "They've beaten us for years and for us seniors, we all wanted to beat them once before we graduated."
"We wanted this game bad," Mason said. "We pounded it at them and they wore down some, which is a credit to our line -- we couldn't do it without them."
Rosewood, however, wouldn't quit and put in two late scores -- the last coming with just three seconds left -- as Ellis threw touchdown passes of 7 and 22 yards to Josh Myers.
Ellis finished the game 7-of-17 passing for 139 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
"As a team, we will never give up," Barrow said. "They kept plugging and we stuck in a couple late."
Notes: At halftime, senior Kelli Gurley was crowned Rosewood's homecoming queen. ... The Eagles ran for just 69 yards on 31 carries -- a 2.2-yard average. The Gators averaged 5.7 yards a carry. ... Wright was forced to leave the game in the third quarter after cramping up after a 6-yard run. Senior Michael Russell came in and finished the drive. He directed the offense six plays as Spring Creek picked up one first down. "It was his first time in there at quarterback this year and he did a great job," Whitfield said. "We got a first down and were able to use up some clock." ... Spring Creek will play at 9-0 North Johnston this Friday as Rosewood travels to North Duplin (2-6).
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