10/31/06 — Panthers shut out Gators at "The Swamp"

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Panthers shut out Gators at "The Swamp"

Published in Sports on October 31, 2006 1:48 PM

SEVEN SPRINGS -- League-leading North Johnston rolled up 42 points in the first half and cruised to a 56-0, Class 1-A Carolina Conference victory over Spring Creek on Monday night.

Playing without leading rusher Josh Wright the entire first half, the Gators (3-7, 1-3) could muster only 80 yards of total offense for the game. Wright came into the contest with 1,011 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns, but was held to just 16 yards on five second-half carries and had one catch for 5 yards against the Panthers.

For North Johnston (7-3, 4-0), Willie Pearce had a game-high 151 rushing yards on 12 totes. The junior tailback scored three touchdowns before leaving the game late in the second quarter.

"We came out focused and played hard and it was a total team effort," North Johnston coach Tom Nelson said. "Our defense was very good and our offense was like a machine."

North Johnston scored twice in the opening quarter on runs of 8 and 5 yards by Pearce and led 14-0 after the first 12 minutes. Pearce dashed 39 for his third touchdown on the first play of the second quarter to give the Panthers a three-touchdown lead.

After the ensuing kickoff, the Gators still had visions of getting back into the game, but were forced to punt after picking up only one first down.

North Johnston then scored three more touchdowns in the final five minutes before halftime to take a commanding 42-0 lead. Panther quarterback Josh Wentz hooked up with Mike Taylor in the slot and the sophomore raced 34 yards for the first score.

Forced to kick it away again, the Gators muffed the punt and gave the Panthers the football back inside the Spring Creek 25-yard line. Four plays later, Charles Pipkin scored on a 6-yard run. The Gators had the ball for only one play before fumbling and giving the ball back to North Johnston in the Spring Creek red zone again.

Jermaine Grimes broke loose for a 22-yard scamper on the next play with less than a minute left in the first half.

Wright returned in the third quarter for Spring Creek, but the Gators could not crack the tough North Johnston defense.

Spring Creek lost four fumbles and the Gator offense only crossed midfield one time during the game. The Spring Creek miscues allowed the Panthers to dominate time of possession and run 53 plays compared to the Gators' 32.

North Johnston added two more scores in the second half on runs of 37 and 4 yards by Taylor and Wayne Johnson.

Spring Creek head coach Roy Whitfield did not have to search long to find a few positives for the game.

"I thought our underclassmen, especially our ninth and 10th graders, did very well," he said. "They have not played a lot this year and we put them in early. They come to practice every day and they played hard tonight."

In the final game of the regular season, the Gators will travel to Calypso on Friday night to face North Duplin (7-2, 3-1). North Johnson will host Ayden-Grifton (7-3, 3-1) the same evening. A win will give the Panthers the Carolina 1-A title outright.