Tigers' defense, special teams shine
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on December 2, 2007 2:27 AM
WARSAW -- Fourth-seeded Pender County felt optimistic about its second meeting against James Kenan since taking an early-September shellacking at Bill Taylor Field.
And the Patriots' confidence received a boost when they forced the Tigers to punt on their first possession. But the visitors' viewpoint quickly changed in a 120-second span after their initial defensive stand.
James Kenan capitalized on two special teams plays, including a blocked punt by Rudy Becton, to grab the momentum early. The Tigers capped their 28-0 victory with two third-quarter touchdowns and seized their second consecutive N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-AA (large school) eastern regional championship.
The No. 2-ranked Tigers (15-0 overall) earned their second trip to Chapel Hill where they'll meet western champion West Montgomery next Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Accustomed to its offense getting off to a quick start, James Kenan used special-teams play to knock down Pender in the opening quarter. The Tigers needed just three offensive downs to convert the Patriots' first punt -- a 4-yard kick that bounced out of bounds at the Pender 8-yard line.
James Kenan yielded minus-3 yards on the Patriots' next possession and Becton squirted through untouched to block the punt. Dasmine Smith, a junior varsity call-up for the postseason, rambled 15 yards into the end zone.
The Tigers led 14-0.
"That was huge and set the whole tempo for the game," said James Kenan head coach Ken Avent Jr. "They've got to make plays and score against our defense. We felt pretty good about that."
Pender (10-5) punted on 10 of 11 possessions and never crossed midfield. The Patriots amassed just 68 yards of total offense and six first downs against the Tigers, who posted 10 stops behind the line of scrimmage on Pender's 39 offensive plays.
Linebacker Josh Hicks led Kenan's defense with 10 tackles and seven assists. Noseguard Derrick Barden notched four tackles, two sacks and seven assists. Linebacker Alex Monk provided six tackles, six assists and one fumble hit.
"We were just hustling to the ball and playing hard all night long," said Kenan defensive coordinator John Avent. "They put themselves in position to make plays, understand what we want them to do and make adjustments (well).
"They did a good job."
The Patriots did an equally impressive job on defense.
Junior linebacker Travis Carter wrapped up Tiger backs Brandon Satchell and Stedman Mathis on several occasions behind the line of scrimmage. The Tigers accumulated just one first down and 33 yards of total offense in the opening half.
Avent Jr. expected to struggle against the Patriots' shuffling defense, which allowed just two third-down conversions on 10 attempts. Plus, Satchell suffered a mid-week injury in practice and quarterback Shawn Jones received IV fluids Friday to ward off dehydration from the flu.
"They're good defensively and had everybody up there to stop the run," said Avent Jr. "We had the field position (advantage) all night and didn't want to do anything stupid to give momentum back to them so that's why we ran the ball so much."
Kenan's offense finally got untracked in the third quarter.
Working from the Patriot 47-yard line, Jones engineered an eight-play drive that ended on Mathis' 25-yard touchdown run. The 199-pound tailback had managed just seven yards rushing on nine attempts before finding the end zone.
"We were frustrated," said Mathis. "Some of the linemen weren't focused like they were supposed to be. We talked at halftime about stepping it up offensively."
Duan Alston's pick of Pender quarterback Anthony Blanks set up the Tigers' final score. Jones needed just one play to find Kendal Jones uncovered down the right sideline for a 53-yard touchdown pass.
Once the extra-point kick split the uprights, chants of "Cha-pel Hill! Cha-pel Hill!" erupted from the Kenan faithful in attendance. And when the final horn sounded, Avent Jr. skillfully avoided getting drenched in ice-cold water.
The Tigers tied a school record for victories (15) and will get a second shot at its second state title in program history.
"Time to go get the ring," said Mathis.
Pender 0 0 0 0 -- 0
James Kenan 14 0 14 0 -- 28
JK -- Satchell 1 run (Vasquez kick), 5:42
JK -- D. Smith 15 blocked punt return (Vasquez kick), 3:25
JK -- Mathis 25 run (Vasquez kick), 1:56
JK -- K. Jones 53 pass from S. Jones (Funez-Bonilla kick), 0:24.8
First downs 6 6
Rushes-yds 30-52 34-56
Passing yds 16 58
Total yards 68 114
C-A-I 2-9-1 2-2-0
Fumbles-lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-yds 12-72 9-65
RUSHING -- James Kenan -- Brandon Satchell 10-18, TD; Stedman Mathis 10-32, TD; Shawn Jones 4-12; Darius Heslip 4-3; Akeem Carlton 1-2; Rudy Becton 2-(-8); Team 3-(-3). Pender -- Anthony Blanks 14-32; Keith Pearsall 6-15; Travis Carter 4-(-7); James Henry 6-12.
PASSING -- James Kenan -- Shawn Jones 2-2-0 58, TD. Pender -- Anthony Blanks 2-9-1 16.
RECEIVING -- James Kenan -- Tony Jones 1-5; Kendal Jones 1-53, TD. Pender -- Travis Carter 1-4; James Henry 1-12.
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