Barons fall to A-G

Published 12:19 am Saturday, November 20, 2010

GATESVILLE – So much for the ‘Drive to the Dozen’; there will be no number-12.

Gates County High School football team’s 11-game winning streak came to a halt Friday night with the Red Barons on the short end, 28-13, in the second round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association playoffs.

Trailing by two scores for the first time since their season-opener against Hertford County, the Barons narrowed the Chargers’ lead by just a touchdown late in the third quarter, but could not complete the comeback.

Brandon Larry passed for all four Ayden-Grifton touchdowns, including two to Diquan Carney, as the Chargers upped their season record to 10-3 while Gates County’s season ends at 11-2.

DaShawn Stokley scored the lone offensive touchdown for the Red Barons and T.J. Chatman added the other score on a fumble return for a touchdown.  Stokley finished with just 39 yards rushing on 17 carries for the night, and senior quarterback Graham Hobbs passed for 97 yards in his final appearance on the turf at Gates County Field.

“It’s been a great year,” said Gates County coach Matt Biggy after the game, the disappointment echoing in his voice.  “You only have one team that finishes the season on a high note and when it’s not you it hurts.”

Both teams’ defenses were up to the task on the chilly, damp night in the early going.  Biggy opting to run right into the teeth of the Chargers’ front with Stokley carrying the ball on the Red Barons’ first eleven plays from scrimmage before Gates County attempted it’s first pass.

Gates’ defense was just as uncharitable.  Despite one misdirection play after another, the Red Barons held Ayden Grifton to minus-6 yards on the ground for the entire first quarter.

As the period was ending, Gates drove to the Chargers’ 35-yard line and went for it on fourth down, but a fumble on a bad snap stopped the drive and Ayden-Grifton finally broke thru to open the second quarter as they went 57 yards on nine plays, ending with Larry’s 30-yard short pass over the middle to break the scoreless drought and the point-after making it, 7-0, in favor of the visitors.

After Gates was stopped on their first drive of the quarter, the Red Barons caught a break when Corey Smith intercepted Larry near midfield.  However, the drive was stopped short on fourth down for the second time on the night with two minutes until halftime.

The Chargers then worked the clock with their ground game down to the final five seconds of the half before Larry again connected, this time with Kariym Gent, and Gates went into the locker-room down, 14-0, at the break.

Ayden Grifton added to that lead, scoring on their first drive of the third quarter, an 8-play 57 yard drive that finished with Larry getting a hat-trick on his third TD toss of the night; one that appeared to be out of bounds, but was ruled a scoring catch and had Gates in the hole, 21-0.

The Red Barons finally got on the scoreboard on their first drive as Hobbs directed a seven-play 44-yard drive down to the 15-yard line before Stokley did the rest and the point-after made it 21-7.

On the next Ayden-Grifton drive a misplayed lateral resulted in Chatman scooping up the loose pigskin and rumbling 40 yards to the end zone, but the kick was wide and the Barons could only get within eight at 21-13.

Ayden-Grifton added their final score of the night when they went for it on fourth down and Larry had his fourth touchdown toss.  He finished with 150 yards passing.

“And we’re primarily a running team,” chuckled Chargers coach Paul Cornwell, “but we caught some passes tonight, the defense stepped up and it all had to fit together.

“Gates was very physical,” he added, “they didn’t win eleven games by accident.  We had to come in here in a tough environment against a heckuva football team.”

“It was tough to sustain drives with their size,” said Hobbs.  “But this team went from winning one game my first year to two my sophomore year, then six last year, and now eleven this year.  That’s how you see success.”

“I hope,” he added, “that this is something they can build on for a long time.”

(By Gene Motley, Sports Writer)