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WILSON — After a short week that led into a 32-6 loss to Beddingfield, the Smithfield-Selma football team hopes an extra two days of rest leading into homecoming against North Johnston can help eliminate the fatigue that plagued the Spartans against the Bruins on Sept. 4.
The Spartans (1-2), going into halftime down just 10-6, were held scoreless by Beddingfield in the second half. In a ballgame that was close into a crucial third quarter, the Bruins ground and pound power-I running style eventually wore down a roster that leans heavily on a core of players taking the field for both offense and defense.
“Going into the summer, we knew depth was still an issue,” SSS head coach Mike Parrish said. “Our guys are stronger and bigger. It’s just asking these kids to play without many seniors at all. Asking 14, 15 year old guys to play both ways is tough.”
A great deal of the eventual fatigue that allowed Beddingfield to run away with the score came from defending against the Bruins’ power back Raewkon Batts, a fire hydrant-like ballcarrier who rammed his way down the field for 144 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries.
As Beddingfield head coach Carl Smith explained after the game, “nobody wants to continue to tackle big Raekwon back there. Eventually, you will break down.”
Yet even as Batts exploited the defense with wide-open running lanes in the first half, he scored just once before halftime as the Bruins held a measly 4-point lead close to the vest at the conclusion of the second quarter.
After a long first drive that bled through most of the first quarter and ended with Batts’ first score, SSS running back Zach McNeill responded in the second quarter by trucking a defender at the goal line for his own 4-yard touchdown. The Spartans were stymied on the two-point conversion that would have given them the lead, but things were drawing close.
A final 26-yard field goal with six seconds before halftime lengthened out the Beddingfield lead, but at the time, neither team was in control.
Right out of halftime, though, the Spartans fumbled on their intial drive and gave up a quick 21-yard scoring drive entirely shouldered by the running of Batts. And yet, despite their mistakes, the Spartans were still within reach.
Smithfield-Selma responded on its next drive exploiting the Bruin defense with consecutive sweeping running plays tossed to sophomore running back Brandon Perry. On seven sweeps in a row, alternating from right to left, the Spartans moved all the way from their own 23 down to the 11-yard line, then eventually down to the 1 with four downs to score.
“We had the momentum going,” Parrish lamented. “I feel like if we punch it in, it’s a different ballgame.”
The Spartans, however, hurt themselves from inside the 10. Four plays and four penalties later, Smithfield-Selma not only didn’t score, the team was forced to punt all the way from the 44-yard line on 4th and long.
“I was so proud of those guys to keep fighting,” Smith said after the game, noting how huge the stop was. “Smithfield-Selma was able to make a couple big plays and they had momentum going. We had our backs against the wall and my defense never quit.”
On the ensuing Beddingfield drive, the Bruins scored again to lengthen out to a 25-6 lead. Everything changed with that score.
The Spartans came back out after halftime feeling good about their chances, but their momentum had been deflated. When the drive stalled out, Beddingfield took over for good.
“I felt like we were going to do what we had to do and make a comeback,” Parrish said. “Then the drive just stalled and things snowballed from there.”
Beddingfield continued to roll to the victory in the fourth quarter. After Smithfield-Selma fumbled on its third play back on offense, it took just three plays for the home team to punch in its final score of the game.
“Smash-mouth football is tough to deal with,” Parrish said. “It just wore our guys down.”
Panthers vs. Spartans
SMITHFIELD — In its next game, the Spartans won’t see much relief from the running game. Another run-heavy offense awaits the team on Friday against North Johnston, though this time the rushing attack will be much shiftier than physical.
Both SSS and NJ run the option, which Parrish said will be a more comfortable front for his team to defend.
“We see the option every day in practice,” Parrish said. “They see it every day and are pretty familiar with it.”
With that familiarity, the homecoming game will pose another opportunity for Smithfield-Selma to play its first complete game of football from start to finish in 2019.
The Spartans’ opening-week win over Spring Creek was called at halftime due to a lightning delay. In the two weeks since, games have fallen out of reach against Western Harnett and Beddingfield as the team has been shut out in the second half in back-to-back games.
Due to Hurricane Dorian, North Johnston’s scheduled home game James Kenan on Sept. 6 was moved to Monday, Sept. 9, after print deadline for the Johnstonian News. Visit johnstoniannews.com for full game coverage of the Panthers’ contest.
Corinth Holders rolls past Clayton
WENDELL — The Corinth Holders football team beat Clayton for only the second time in school history on Sept. 4 in a 21-13 victory that was tight from start to finish, sending the school into a bye week this week still unbeaten.
“I’m so excited for our kids,” head coach Adam Khavari said. “They’ve worked so hard, been through a lot, especially our seniors...to start off this way has been a huge positive for us.”
The Pirates (3-0) jumped out to an early lead scoring in the first quarter on a pass from quarterback Matt Cozart to Marcus Bland. The Comets scored their first touchdown of the game, busting up the Pirates in coverage for a long score.
By the second quarter, Bland scored his second touchdown after Cozart took off on a quarterback keeper and crossed the line of scrimmage, but lateraled to Bland for the score. After the touchdown, the team took a 14-6 lead into the half.
Neither team scored in the third quarter, but Jeffrey Palmer blocked a punt in the fourth that was scooped up by Langston Robinson for the Pirates’ last touchdown. Shortly after, Clayton broke through again for a long touchdown run.
In the victory, Khavari was impressed with the way Kambron Whitaker ran the ball as he opened the running game when the passing game wasn’t always open. Khavari did not have his final rushing totals calculated, but thought his contributions really helped his team to the win.
“Kambron Whitaker had a heck of a game,” Khavari said. “He ran the ball really well for us.”
On the defensive side, Dashon Bell intercepted two passes to add to a third turnover forced by Palmer that helped the Pirates score the winning touchdown.
After the win, the Pirates enter a bye week. They’ll take the field again on Sept. 20 traveling to another 3-A Greater Neuse River Conference oppponent in Smithfield-Selma (1-2).
Princeton coming off a bye
PRINCETON — Princeton, the fourth team in the Johnstonian News readership area, was on a bye week last week.
The Bulldogs (2-0) will take the field again on Friday for a home matchup against South Lenoir, who is also coming off a bye week.