Turnovers costly for James Kenan
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 13, 2011 1:52 AM
RED SPRINGS -- Too many turnovers.
A solid, athletic passing attack.
Red Springs used those two elements to its advantage and eliminated James Kenan 42-28 from the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-AA Mideast Regional football playoffs on a cold, bone-chilling Friday evening.
The two schools met in the postseason for the first time since 1957 during Kenan's first year of consolidation. The Red Devils earned an opening-round shutout win that season.
The Tigers' unexpected graciousness fueled this outcome.
Sophomore quarterback Blake Greene converted three James Kenan fumbles into touchdowns, and emerged the main weapon on 37 of the Red Devils' 46 plays in their spread offense.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound field general completed 12 of 22 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns -- including two to Zach Leach and one to Juilian Brown, who led all receivers with 179 yards on just six catches.
Greene rushed for a hard-earned 68 yards and two scores on 15 totes.
"Their quarterback is good and their receivers will make you pay," said Tigers' head coach Ken Avent Jr. "When you play a spread team, you have to keep them off the field and we just weren't able to do that. I thought we did a good job of making them throw it to beat us, and that's what they did.
"You have to give them credit."
James Kenan (7-5 overall) took the opening kickoff and Dominique Barnes directed a time-consuming, 12-play drive that erased nearly eight minutes off the clock. Barnes capped the 67-yard possession with a 4-yard plunge.
The teams traded punts on their next possessions before Greene put the second-seeded Red Devils (10-2) on the board with a 1-yard dive early in the second quarter.
Raheim Phillips' 14-yard scamper put the Tigers ahead 14-7 at halftime.
Red Springs opened the third quarter with a 51-yard kickoff return, but the drive stalled on Greene's fourth-down incompletion. The Tigers fumbled on the next play, and Greene cashed in with a 10-yard scoring strike to Leach in the far right corner of the end zone.
"They made us pay when we fumbled," said Avent Jr.
Each team scored on its next possession. Phillips blocked a Red Devils extra point to give Kenan a slim 21-20 lead.
The momentum soon shifted.
The Tigers forced a fourth-down incompletion on Red Springs' next drive, but coughed up the ball four plays later. Greene connected with Brown on a 58-yard touchdown pass that gave the Red Devils the lead for good early in the final quarter.
"That was the big one," said Avent Jr. "If we could have punched that in, I think it would have been different because you could see that we had the momentum. They capitalized and that's how it goes."
Red Springs scored on its next two possessions, including a short touchdown burst by Xavier McEachern after the Tigers surrendered their third fumble of the game.
Devon Best paced Kenan's ground game with 119 yards on 19 carries, while Sutton crossed the 1,000-yard plateau with an 88-yard effort on 16 attempts. The Tigers piled up 323 yards of total offense on 58 plays, while the Red Devils collected 393 yards.
"If we had just held onto the ball ...," said Avent Jr. "When you fumble and as explosive as they are on offense, it's going to be hard to win. But I was proud of the way we played, other than the mistakes we made."
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