08/20/06 — Gators lose season opener to Blue Devils

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Gators lose season opener to Blue Devils

By Steve Roush
Published in Sports on August 20, 2006 2:25 AM

SEVEN SPRING -- He's listed as a quarterback and defensive back in the program, but make no mistake, Josh Wright can line up just about anywhere.

The Spring Creek senior played quarterback, running back, wide receiver, defensive back, kicker returner, punt returner and punter on Friday night as the Gators lost their 2006 season opener 25-6 to visiting South Lenoir.

Wright threw for 85 yards and ran for 65 more -- accounting for all but 20 of the Gators' 170 yards of total offense. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound ultraback also had a 56-yard touchdown reception called back because of an illegal chop block and running back Ronnie Butler had a 29-yard touchdown run negated by a holding call as nine Spring Creek (0-1) penalties and five turnovers allowed the Blue Devils (1-0) escape The Swamp with the 19-point triumph.

"I try to bring everything I can to the table from any position," Wright said. "I want to do everything I can to help our team win. I feel like I can play just about every play of the game and I want to be out there every down of the football game."

That's head coach Roy Whitfield's plan.

"Josh has a lot of ability," Whitfield said. "Most of the time when he steps on the football field, I feel like he might be the best athlete on both sides of the football. We're going to do whatever we can to get the ball in his hands as much as we can."

The Gators turned the ball over on their first three drives of the night Friday as Butler fumbled the ball away on Spring Creek's first drive and a pair of Wright interceptions on the next two possessions allowed the Devils to take a 12-0 lead after one quarter of play.

South Lenoir running back Dorsey Leach, who finished with a game-high 136 yards on 17 carries, scored from a yard out and added a 61-yard touchdown run later in the opening quarter as the Blue Devils took the early lead.

The Gators, however, cut South Lenoir's lead in half early in the second quarter.

Butler returned a kickoff 65 yards to the Blue Devils 15 and six plays and four penalties later, Butler took it in from four yards out to slice the Devils' advantage to 12-6.

Butler appeared to have tied the game on Spring Creek's next possession as the 6-foot, 165-pound senior broke several tackles and raced 29 yards for a touchdown, but the score was called back and the drive ended up bogging down as the Gators turned the ball over on downs at the South Lenoir 36.

All told, the two teams combined to commit 21 penalties for 147 yards -- and quite a few more yellow flags were declined on the night. In the fourth quarter, Wright, lined up as a receiver, caught a pass from backup QB Chris Ponce and outran the South Lenoir defense for a touchdown that would have cut the Blue Devil lead to 18-12. But that score was also called back, too.

"That's part of the game," Whitfield said. "(South Lenoir) had some big penalties, as well. I'd never fault the officials, I thought they did a good job, but I hate it for the kids because both times we scored there were on great, great efforts.

"But that's part of football."

Blue Devils wide receiver David Hill, who had both of South Lenoir's receptions for 75 yards, made a great diving catch for 35 yards in the third quarter that put the visitors inside the Spring Creek 1. Two plays later, backup quarterback Scott Brown sneaked it in from a couple of feet out to push South Lenior's lead to 18-6 midway through the period.

The Devils rounded out the scoring with 3:44 to play when linebacker Josh Foster scooped up a fumble and took it back 54 yards for a touchdown. Ponce was attempting to pitch the ball to Butler, but the ball missed its mark after a guard stepped on Ponce's foot and forced the junior to make an off-balance toss.

"I do not think the score was any indication of how close this game was," Whitfield said. "This was really a close ballgame."

Wright finished up 3-of-16 passing with a pair of interceptions and 85 yards and ran the ball 18 times for 65 yards. Junior Alex Dunmire had three catches for 85 yards, and added 18 rushing yards on four carries for the Gators.

"Of course we're going to bounce back," Wright said. "I think we're going to keep getting better and better."

Spring Creek hits the road this Friday to play at Super Six foe Hobbton (0-1).

"Hobbton is always a big game," Whitfield said. "They've got a lot of pride and tradition, and have a great coach."