Falcons top ‘Barons

Published 3:54 pm Sunday, August 24, 2014

WINDSOR – The only way Bertie High School could get the bad taste of a 1-9 football campaign in 2013 out of their mouth was to put the past behind them and focus on a new year.

The Falcons did exactly that here last night (Friday).

Shifty senior tailback Alameen Sharif rushed for a game-high 241 yards and scored two touchdowns, including an electrifying 77-yard dash to paydirt that broke open a close game with under five minutes remaining, as Bertie handed first-year coach Tyris Hill a 28-14 win over Gates County in the season opener for both clubs.

The win not only avenged a 41-12 defeat at Gates County last year, but was the first victory within the confines of Roy Bond Stadium in nearly two years. Until last night, Bertie, 0-5 at home last year, had not won at their stadium since beating Pasquotank, 28-8, on Sept. 21, 2012.

And up until the final stages of last night’s game, the Falcons, despite holding a slim 21-14 lead, were seemingly flirting with disaster once again.

Benefitting from a fumble recovery by Josh Reid, the visiting Red Barons launched a drive from their own 43 yardline with nine minutes left in the game. Aided by a 13-yard pass from Andrew Wiggins to Reid and a 15-yard unsportsmanlike flag on the Falcons, Gates County drove to Bertie’s 26 yardline. However, Bertie senior defensive end Peter Green sacked Wiggins for a 13-yard loss on a 3rd down play. Facing a 4th and 27, the Wiggins-Reid connection worked for 21 of those yards but the ‘Barons came up just short of moving the chains.

One snap later, Sharif sealed the win for the home team when he took the hand-off up the middle, bounced to the outside and was off to the races. Seventy-seven yards and a Jaycob Damo PAT later, Bertie had sealed the win with 4:15 left.

Any last ditch effort by Gates was erased with an interception in the endzone by junior cornerback Malik Moody.

Both teams got their night off on the right foot.

Gates County received the opening kick-off and used a steady diet of runs by Mark Ricks to drive 66 yards in nine plays capped by Ricks’ 7-yard TD run. Ricks toted the pigskin eight times on the drive for 51 of his team-high 94 rushing yards. A bad snap on the PAT left Gates with a 6-0 lead at the 7:54 mark of the first quarter.

Bertie also scored on its opening possession, striking paydirt on a fourth-down play when Corey Cherry ran a perfect wheel route and quarterback Aaron Wells laid the ball in for a 23-yard TD pass and catch. Damo added the PAT to cap the 11 play, 67 yard drive.

Neither team mounted any serious scoring threat until the midway mark of the second quarter. There, an outstanding defensive play by Gates County’s Robert Walker, who made a diving, one-handed interception, put the Red Barons in business at Bertie’s 35 yardline. Three plays later, Letwan Hardie took the hand-off on an end-around play and used a key block from Reid to turn the corner en route to a 24-yard TD run. Walker added the conversion run, putting the ‘Barons up 14-7 with 6:08 left until halftime.

But Bertie bounced right back. Highlighted by the running of Sharif and fullback Dijion Askew, the table was set for Cherry to cover the final 11 yards of the 66-yard drive with his TD run up the middle. Damo’s PAT sent the two teams into the half tied at 14-14.

Bertie grabbed the lead for-keeps on the opening possession of the third quarter, driving only 46 yards, after a muffed Gates kick-off, in six plays capped by Sharif’s 3-yard TD run.

For the night, Bertie came up 36 inches short of a 400-yard offensive game. Anchored by a line consisting of starters Malik Leary, Ishmaell Green, Abubakr Hafiz, Alex Cooper and Jarvis Carr, the Bertie running backs rushed 45 times for 376 yards. Meanwhile, Wells’ only pass completion to the home team covered 23 yards, giving the Falcons 399 total yards. Cherry (16 carries for 88 yards) and Askew (9-43) were also effective on the ground.

Other than Ricks’ rushing effort, the Red Barons did find some success through the air as Wiggins completed five passes for 78 yards, all to Reid. Gates finished with 207 total yards.

Bertie will travel to Manteo next Friday (Aug. 29) while Gates County entertains Pasquotank. Both games kick-off at 7:30 p.m.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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