Rosewood claims 21st consecutive win over Princeton
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 5, 2006 2:02 AM
PRINCETON -- Daniel Barrow's tranquil demeanor settled down a Rosewood football team ready to push the panic button at halftime.
Tied at 14-14 with archrival Princeton?
"It shouldn't be this" quipped the Eagles' players as they flocked to the locker room on a bone-chilling night at the Fred Bartholomew Jr. Athletic Complex.
Worry shrouded the Rosewood players' faces as Barrow offered two simple pieces of advice -- relax and just go play football. Nothing else was said as the team warmed up from the chilly climate that produced the first frost of the fall season and slickened the field conditions.
Those tender nerves didn't disappear too quickly, however. The teams traded third-quarter fumbles before Rosewood's offense -- thanks to its defense -- caught fire.
The Eagles erupted for 27 points in a six-minute span, and claimed a 41-21 victory in the Class 1-A Carolina Conference regular-season finale. The Eagles (6-5) defeated the Bulldogs for the 21st straight time and finished fourth overall at 2-3 in the league.
Princeton endured its 19th straight conference defeat.
"The biggest thing was we had to be physical with them and we were, I felt like," said Bulldogs coach Russell Williamson. "They do a lot of motion in the backfield with people going different ways, and we had to stay home and contain. For the most part, we did it."
Rosewood managed just one third-down conversion on its first five possessions. The Eagles accumulated 24 yards of total offense and trailed 7-0 after Bulldog quarterback Matt Blackwell hit Daniel Gerrell with a 12-yard touchdown pass.
One of 11 seniors playing his final home game, Blackwell returned to the lineup after a three-week absence due to a half-torn hamstring.
"We knew last week he was going to play this week," said Williamson. "The doctors turned him loose. He's still a little sore and is not 100 percent. It helps to have him out there because we can spread the ball around some."
Blackwell completed 7 of 29 passes for 158 yards to seven different receivers. However, he also threw a season-high six interceptions. Two picks led to Rosewood touchdowns.
Senior free safety Jonathan Peedin started the Eagles' first touchdown drive when he picked off Braswell near midfield. Myers forged a 7-7 deadlock with a 21-yard scoring strike to Stephen Myers early in the second quarter.
Each team notched another touchdown before halftime.
Myers directed a 13-play, 68-yard drive that ended on Chris Holmes' 4-yard run. Princeton countered with Blackwell's 1-yard plunge one minute later. The Eagles committed two costly defensive pass interference penalties inside the red zone to keep the drive alive.
"Princeton had a great plan against us defensively and offensively," said Barrow. "I give all the credit to them. (At halftime) I told them 'men, everything is fine. It's 14-14 and to us it's zero-zero.'
"We've had some misfortune with turnovers and penalties. Let's just relax and play Rosewood football the second half and everything is going to be fine.'"
Barrow was right once the fumble-fest ended.
Each team coughed up the pigskin on its initial possession of the second half. Princeton punted on its second series, and Rosewood took over near midfield. Cody Richards polished off a 51-yard drive with a 30-yard run to make it 20-14.
Senior outside linebacker Clarence Toran ignited a 21-point offensive surge when he picked off Blackwell. Myers needed just four plays to connect with Garrett Howell for a 38-yard touchdown.
The Eagle defense forced another turnover and the special teams recovered an onside kick set up by back-to-back personal foul penalties. The three miscues led to a commanding 41-14 lead with 5 minutes, 13 seconds to go in the third period. Holmes and Eric Martel each tallied a touchdown during that stretch.
"The turnovers hurt us," admitted Williamson. "We had the durn penalties and we put our hands team in there, but they just kicked it (onside kick) in the perfect spot.
"That six minutes pretty much killed us."
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