10/01/06 — State-ranked Mariners run over Gator

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State-ranked Mariners run over Gator

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 1, 2006 2:16 AM

SEVEN SPRINGS -- East Carteret senior Andrew Courman side-stepped one Spring Creek tackler, ran through the grasp of another tackler and cut back across the field.

Once the 5-foot-5, 172-pound scatback found wide-open real estate, Courman cashed in frequently during Friday's non-conference contest at "The Swamp." Courman pierced the Gator defense for an incredible 302 yards and seven touchdowns -- on just 21 carries -- in the state-ranked Mariners' 54-20 victory.

Courman also grabbed a 27-yard scoring strike and accounted for 329 of the Mariners' 450 yards of total offense.

"(Courman) is the real deal," said sixth-year Spring Creek coach Roy Whitfield. "He gets behind those pulling linemen who do a great job. He sees a little seam and that's it. He's a very good football player.

"They're a very explosive team."

East Carteret, ranked No. 10 in the latest Associated Press Class 1-A prep poll, collected its 19th win overall in its last 21 outings. The Mariners (5-1) denied the Gators a chance to even their overall worksheet at 3-3, and match last year's school record for non-conference victories.

Before the fans could settle into the bleachers, the teams combined for three touchdowns in the first 7 1/2 minutes. Courman scored on runs of 4 and 58 yards, while Spring Creek senior Josh Wright countered with a 4-yard plunge of his own.

The Gators climbed within 20-14 on a flawless, 11-play drive directed by first-year quarterback Emmanuel Hinton. Hinton capped the 74-yard march with a 23-yard scamper and added the two-point conversion.

East Carteret switched to a seven-man front on offense and put together a seven-play touchdown drive. Courman finished off the two-minute possession with a 7-yard run.

Spring Creek trailed 26-14 at the break.

"If they're the number 10-ranked team in the state, I didn't feel like we were that far behind," said Whitfield. "We played with them in the first half. We did some great things."

East Carteret broke the game open with a 28-point, third-quarter outburst. The Gators aided the collapse with two lost fumbles and two wide-open passes that were dropped.

Courman scored on runs of 39, 23 and 71 yards, and added the touchdown reception from quarterback DeAngelo Stewart.

Impressed by the visitors' performance, Whitfield didn't seem too stressed by the loss. But the miscues certainly helped define the Gators' second-half breakdown after they had played the Mariners close in the first 24 minutes.

"If we cash in that pass (to Alex Dunmire), it's 34-26 and we're right in the ball game," said Whitfield. "Things sort of snowballed after that."

Spring Creek fell to 7-22 all-time in non-conference play.

A disappointed Whitfield expressed his discontent in the post-game huddle, but reminded the players that a new season begins Monday. The Gators (2-4) kick off their Carolina 1-A Conference campaign at home next Friday against Princeton.

"Everybody's main focus is conference games," said Whitfield. "You throw the record out and everybody is starting fresh. We've probably got, I would say, the biggest conference game of the year against Princeton.

"They're going to feel like, with the season they've had so far, they're going to have a chance (to win). We've just got to be ready."

NOTES: Spring Creek did not commit a penalty, which is a school record. ... Wright grinded out a hard-earned 59 yards on 21 carries. ... Hinton completed six passes to three different receivers -- Wright, Alex Dunmire and Ray Grady. ... DB Alan Michael Price, a first-year varsity starter, led the Gators with eight solo tackles and three assists on defense. ... Junior T Dwight Strickland contributed six solo stops. ... Desmund Raeford added five tackles. ... Grady had three tackles and three assists.