Bertie ‘inches’ past ‘Barons

Published 2:21 pm Sunday, September 6, 2015

GATESVILLE – Football is a game of yards, often measured in inches.

The latter is how close Gates County came to pulling off the biggest upset of the young football season here Friday night.

Bertie junior defensive tackle Devontra Sessoms stuffed Gates County’s Robert Walker for a yard loss on a fourth-and-goal play at the one yardline with 2:11 remaining, allowing the Falcons to spoil the Red Barons’ home opener by escaping with a thrilling 24-20 win.

The win allowed Bertie to extend its early season win streak to two games. Meanwhile, GatesCounty remains winless at 0-3.

The Falcons led 16-6 at halftime before that “game of inches” came into play once again. Bertie attempted an onsides kick to open the second half, but one of their players touched the ball 36 inches short of it traveling the required 10 yards. That allowed Gates County to set up in great field position, starting a drive at Bertie’s 49 yardline.

Four plays later, Walker busted up the middle and broke two tackles en route to a 22-yard TD run. The conversion failed, but the ‘Barons had trimmed their deficit to 16-12 at the 10:29 mark of the third quarter.

After an exchange of possessions, Bertie was mounting a drive that reached inside GatesCounty’s 30 yardline late in the period. On a fourth down play, the “inches” game was present again as Darquail Wilkens’ pass was just a tad low and off the fingertips of Rushon Bond and Gates took over on loss of downs.

The Red Barons used that break to drive 70 yards for a score and their first lead of the night. Danyeal Crocker was the workhorse on that drive, toting the pigskin three times for 52 yards, including the final 10 yards as he ran untouched up the middle to paydirt. Crocker, who led the ‘Barons with 103 rushing yards, also added the conversion run as Gates County claimed the lead at 20-16 with 10:30 left in the game.

But Bertie had an answer, taking the ensuing kick-off and marching 54 yards in six plays capped by Corey Cherry’s 26-yard scamper to the endzone, which later proved to be the game-winning touchdown. Cherry added the conversion run, as Bertie reclaimed the lead at 24-20 with 8:01 left.

It appeared that Gates would rebound, using a big 33-yard run by quarterback Jawan Riddick on a fourth-and-inches play from Bertie’s 37 yardline with just over five minutes left. The Red Barons eventually moved the ball only 36 inches shy of the goal before Sessoms broke Gates County’s heart with his big defensive play.

Even though both teams primarily stuck with a running game (they combined for 737 rushing yards), each scored their first touchdown of the night through the air.

Bertie drew first blood on the game’s opening series when Wilkens hooked up with Jacori Vaughan on a 23-yard TD pass play. Wilkens ran in the conversion for a quick 8-0 lead by the visitors only four minutes into the game.

Gates County answered with 10 straight running plays on their initial series. But play #11 went to the air and resulted in a 30-yard scoring strike from Riddick to Walker. The conversion failed, leaving Bertie with an 8-6 lead with 4:12 left in the first quarter.

Bertie used one big play late in the second quarter to establish its 16-6 halftime lead when Wilkens took off on a 62-yard sprint to paydirt followed by Cherry’s conversion run.

Gates County came close to matching that score, but lost a fumble (recovered by Erick Speight) inside Bertie’s 10 yardline with 39 seconds left until halftime.

Cherry enjoyed a big night for the Falcons, rushing 15 times for 161 yards. Wilkens added 149 yards while bruising fullback Dijon Askew finished with 83 yards on the ground.

Marks Ricks (28 carries for 98 yards) and Walker (13-83) added to Gates County’s offensive numbers.

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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