Gators lose playoff shootout at Louisburg
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 13, 2005 2:01 AM
LOUISBURG -- Less than 50 yards from Warrior Stadium, the Tar-Pamlico River flows freely and disects the little town of Louisburg in central Franklin County.
The same can be said for Louisburg's offense.
Three backs each rushed for more than 130 yards and Louisburg collected touchdowns on six consecutive possessions in a 62-39 victory over Spring Creek on Friday evening. The seventh-seeded Warriors (6-6) travel to unbeaten and state-ranked North Johnston for a second-round, N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-AA (large school) playoff contest next week.
Spring Creek, the No. 10 seed, concluded its most-successful campaign in school history at 6-6. The Gators set regular-season records for most victories (6), Carolina Conference wins (3) and home wins (4).
"We did accomplish some good things," said Gators coach Roy Whitfield, who is 0-5 all-time in postseason play.
The Spring Creek coaching staff expected a more-competitive game compared to past playoff results and their anticipation surfaced in the opening quarter.
The Gators tallied touchdowns on two of its first three possessions. Josh Wright scrambled three yards for one score and threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to junior Ronnie Butler for an early 14-7 lead.
"When we came out and scored early, especially the first touchdown, that was a big lift for us," said Whitfield. "They came right back and the boy (Greg Small) breaks a big play to set up their first touchdown. Then we come back and score again.
"At that point, I said 'we better score everytime we get the ball.'"
Louisburg climbed within 14-13 and took control for good on Hosea Lewis' 38-yard run just three minutes into the second quarter. That helped ignite a five-touchdown surge during a 15-minute stretch as the Warriors rolled to their first home playoff win since 2002.
Switching from a broken wing-T scheme to a wishbone set bothered the Gator defense. The Warriors' backs easily hit the running lanes open between the tackles and racked up 375 yards rushing by halftime.
Halfbacks Greg Small and Hakeem Strickland -- both freshmen -- each eclipsed the 100-yard mark rushing by intermission. Lewis, a junior, had amassed 98 yards on just six totes.
Whitfield said the Warriors dominated the Gators' defensive line.
"They were physically stronger than we were," said Whitfield. "But the misdirection out of that wishbone hurt because our guys were going with either the first or second fake. They did a great job hiding the football.
"We just couldn't get any stops other than when they fumbled a couple of times -- especially in the first half. If we could have stayed in the ball game in the first half, you'd feel like you've got a chance in the second half.
"To be behind like were against an offensive team we couldn't slow down, I knew it was too much of a hole. We lost that ball game in the first half."
The teams combined for eight touchdowns in the second half.
Butler scored on runs of 6 and 31 yards, and finished with a career-high 204 yards on 15 carries. Ricky Mason, who just missed reaching the 1,000-yard mark, notched a pair of second-half touchdowns and ended the night with 58 yards on 13 carries.
Wright accounted for two touchdowns, one rushing and one passing, to go along with 110 yards of total offense.
Nine of 10 seniors played their final game for Spring Creek. Whitfield offered his thanks to Mason, Michael Russell, Bill Travis, Darin Straub, Josh Gates, Billy Salazar, Wes Denham, Chris Davis and Curtis Lassiter for their efforts on the field. Lelo Burt missed the game due to disciplinary reasons.
"When you get in the playoffs and you play somebody that you match up with as far as record, you sort of see your weaknesses," said Whitfield. "That gives you an idea of what to work on for next year. We've got some key players coming back and I think our program right now is headed in the right direction.
"We're very pleased with our season, but I just hated the seniors had to go out on a note like that."
Spring Creek 14 0 7 18 -- 39
Louisburg 7 28 20 7 -- 62
SC -- J. Wright 2 run (Avila kick), 7:56
L -- Strickland 5 run (Eban kick), 6:18
SC -- Butler 33 pass from Wright (Avila kick), 0:59.6
L -- Strickland 2 run (run failed), 11:57
L -- Lewis 38 run (Small run), 9:00
L -- Strickland 31 run (Eban kick), 5:13
L -- Lassiter 24 run (Eban kick), 1:34
L -- H. Wright 4 run (Eban kick), 9:15
SC -- Butler 6 run (Avila kick), 6:00
L -- Strickland 27 run (Eban kick), 5:00
L -- Small 3 run (kick failed), 1:02
SC -- Butler 31 run (kick failed), 10:04
L -- Small 45 run (Eban kick), 8:26
SC -- Mason 11 run (run failed), 7:04
SC -- Mason 10 run (pass failed), 1:32
S. Creek Louisburg
First downs 19 26
Rushes-yds 50-380 53-609
Passing yds 46 0
Total yards 426 609
Att.-Comp.-Int. 17-4-1 1-0-0
Fumbles-lost 2-2 2-2
Punts-avg. 2-32.5 0-0
Penalties-yds 14-112 6-66
RUSHING -- Spring Creek -- Ronnie Butler 15-204, TD; Josh Wright 10-64, TD; Ricky Mason 13-58, 2 TDs; Orlando Grantham 12-54. Louisburg -- Greg Small 13-235, 2 TDs; Hakeem Strickland 13-151, 4 TDs; Hosea Lewis 12-134; Randy Lassiter 6-48, TD; Huntley Wright 4-25; Mike Allen 3-15; Team 3-1.
PASSING -- Spring Creek -- Josh Wright 4-17-1 46, TD. Louisburg -- Randy Lassiter 0-1-0 0.
RECEIVING -- Spring Creek -- Ronnie Butler 1-33, TD; Alex Dunmire 2-14; Orlando Grantham 1-(-1).
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