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SMITHFIELD — Scoring seven touchdowns and holding an opponent scoreless tends to yield a lot of smiles.
After taking a 43-point lead into halftime, the Corinth Holders sideline was giddy with joy in the second half as the Pirates coasted to a 50-0 varsity football victory by an early offensive explosion. The Pirates are now 4-0 on the season and off to their best start since 2015, when the school had its last winning record.
“We’re just trying to make a new name for ourselves,” wide receiver Marcus Bland explained after the game.
After a two-week break to the day since its last win over Clayton at the beginning of the month, the Pirates were anxious to get out on the field again. And since it had been a couple weeks, the team didn’t want to risk coming out flat.
“Everybody was just really pumped up for the game,” junior quarterback Matt Cozart said. “It kind of sucked to have the last week off, but we came back and we really had a fun night tonight.”
It didn’t take long for the fun to start as the visiting team advanced out to an early lead in the first drive of the game, scoring after five plays on a 7-yard untouched run from Kambron Whitaker through the middle of the trenches for touchdown.
After forcing Smithfield-Selma to punt on its first drive, Whitaker scored again from five yards out, then shortly after followed with his third rushing touchdown of the night, a 35-yard power run, to give his team a 21-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Whitaker credited his offensive line for putting him in position to score and called his hard running early just “execution” of the team’s game plan coming into the game.
“They helped (open) holes wide enough for a truck to fit in,” Whitaker said. “I just walked into the end zone on them.”
It quickly became apparent that the early success from Whitaker and the offense in the first quarter would not be short-lived.
While the Spartan offense managed just 133 yards the first half, Corinth Holders exploded for 372, including two screen passes of 50- and 82 yards from Matt Cozart to Bland that went for scores.
“I just saw my two wide receivers Masiyah (Tucker) and Walker (Johnson) blocking for me, so I just had to make the cuts and make a little moves to shake something,” Bland said. “Do what I have to do to get a touchdown.”
In between the two dishes to Bland, Cozart ran in a 2-yard touchdown as the Pirates went to halftime up 43-0.
While Corinth Holders was having a powerful performance on the offensive end, Smithfield-Selma struggled to move the ball all night.
The Spartans had two big opportunities to get points on the board late in the first half. In the first one, a 66-yard completion from quarterback George Brewer to wide receiver Devon Roesch moved the ball deep into Pirates territory and shortly after set up a field goal try from the 12-yard line.
Brewer started in place of sophomore quarterback Clevonte Watson, who was ejected last week in the fourth quarter against North Johnston and sat out to serve a one-game suspension handed down and upheld on appeal by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.
Watson was ejected for saying the word “hell,” which violated the NCHSAA zero-tolerance policy against profanity.
With a different set of strengths, Brewer’s arm set up his team for its best chance to score on the night. But the kick was shanked left as the Spartans came up empty-handed on the 58-yard drive.
Later in the quarter, with the Pirates already up by more than 40 points, Smithfield-Selma had another chance to score with 10 seconds left in the half.
After a 43-yard kick return, the Spartans started their drive on the opposite side of the field and quickly moved the ball down on passes from Brewer.
But another kick from the 14-yard line missed wide left. The Spartans could find no moral victories the rest of the way.
Smithfield-Selma head coach Mike Parrish said throughout the game his team played like it practiced all week, not putting in enough effort to ever be competitive in the contest.
“This week at practice was probably the worst — I don’t know what was going on — unfocused week of practice we’ve had to date,” Parrish said. “And it showed. They didn’t take this serious and that’s what they got.”
With a running clock in the second half, it didn’t take long for Corinth Holders to score again.
After intercepting the Spartans on their first drive of the second half, the Pirates went on a long drive that saw numerous carries by junior running back Gio Hines.
Hines last carry of the drive went for 11 yards up the middle for the final score of the game.
After a confidence-building victory, Corinth Holders knows that the schedule only gets harder from here, with three out of the next four opponents ranked in the most recent statewide Associated Press preps poll.
Next week, the Pirates play the 3-A No. 5 team in the state in Cleveland High, followed by 2-A No. 5 squad SouthWest Edgecombe, then 4-A No. 8 Wake Forest later in October.
“We’ve set ourselves up well, we’re playing with confidence and they’re excited, but to be an elite program you have to beat elite programs,” head coach Adam Khavari said. “That’s what our message will be from here on.”
But even though an uphill battle awaits, that didn’t stop the team from enjoying where it is right now.
“All the practice we put in, it just showed on the field,” Bland said.