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‘Barons blank ‘Canes, 21-0

GATESVILLE – In some football games, a team’s best offense just may be its defense.

That was the case here Friday night where Gates County returned a muffed punt for one score and its defense set-up two others with fumble recoveries as the ‘Barons blanked visiting Northampton-West, 21-0.

After a 0-2 start, the win was the fourth in the last six outings for the Red Barons as the team improved to 4-4 overall and 2-1 in Tar-Roanoke Conference action. With only three games remaining on the 2009 regular scheduled agenda, Gates has a chance to finish with its first winning season since 2004 (8-3 overall). The four wins this season matches exactly the number of victories Gates County collected in the previous three seasons combined (2-10 in 2008; 1-10 in ’07; and 1-10 in ’06).

On a night where the offense did produce some good numbers (272 total yards, including a game-high 108 yards on 22 carries by sophomore Dashawn Stokely), it was the Gates County defense that won this game.

Junior linebacker Angelo Rosati led that defensive effort with nine total tackles, a fumble recovery and two pass break-ups. Adding to the effort were Akeem Lassiter (seven total tackles), six stops each by Corey Smith and Johnathan Sherrod and five takedowns from Taylor Munday.

It was the Gates County defense that staked the ‘Barons to a 7-0 lead. On Northampton-West’s second possession of the game, the Hurricanes punter totally missed the ball, resulting in a muffed kick. The ball bounded sideways and into the hands of junior defensive back Jeremy Smith who raced, untouched, 11 yards to paydirt. Rosati booted the PAT as Gates grabbed a 7-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter.

Two series later, West quarterback Durwood Horton was sacked and lost the handle on the football, a fumble recovered by Gates County’s Beau Williams at the ‘Canes seven yardline. Two plays later, GCHS quarterback Graham Hobbs used a block from his center, Logan Pedersen, and snuck into the endzone from two yards out as the ‘Barons led 14-0 after Rosati’s PAT with 6:55 left in the second quarter.

The game’s turning point came on the ensuing possession. There, West used the strong legs of Marvin Rawles and a key 25-yard pass from Horton to Zach Broadnax to drive, in 10 plays, to Gates County’s two yardline. However, Rawles fumbled as he was fighting for extra yards. The ball rolled into the endzone where Corey Smith dove between two West players to pounce on the loose pigskin, thus keeping West off the scoreboard.

Northampton-West saw another scoring chance end at Gates County’s 17 yardline just past the midway point of the third quarter.

Gates sealed the win, and the season sweep over Northampton County teams (they defeated Northampton-East, 18-14 last week), thanks to another fumble recovery, this one by Rosati at the ‘Canes 39 yardline. Eight plays later, Hobbs tossed a perfect spiral into the hands of Zack Badgett for a 20-yard touchdown. Rosati split the uprights with his PAT to polish off the shutout with 4:59 left in the game.

After an open date on their schedule on Oct. 16, Gates County will host Southeast Halifax on Friday, Oct. 23 for homecoming.