Jackets edge Falcons

Published 2:07 pm Sunday, September 13, 2015

WINDSOR – Hoping to avoid a repeat of 2014 when they won their first two games before a down spell hit, Bertie showed a scrappiness at Roy Bond Jr. Stadium here Friday night that the late coach would’ve been proud of thanks to a hard-nosed defense and a grind it out offense.

It still didn’t amount to a win.

Roanoke Rapids sloshed through the muck of a field left soggy from Thursday night’s rains and held off the Falcons for a 16-12 win.

The Falcons were ‘Dirty Birds’ themselves in the swag, holding the Jackets to short gains most of the night in a ball-control affair.

Bertie found life twice when things looked grim, but as the clock ticked away, they weren’t able to mount a final comeback.

Neither team was able to sustain a drive in the first quarter. After holding the Yellow Jackets on their first possession the Falcons drove to the Roanoke Rapids 21 yard line, tailback Corey Cherry shouldering most of the load on the drive. When quarterback Darquail Wilkens hit Bobby Askew on a fourth-down call and the speedy receiver cut to the outside, it looked like Bertie might gain a first down and new life, instead Askew was short and the ball went over on downs.

After the Falcons defense held Roanoke Rapids to four-and-out; they then couldn’t fire up enough offense on their second possession. Added to their woes were a pair of costly penalties and they ended up punting it away.  The quarter ended with neither team finding paydirt.

The Jackets began a late first quarter drive and in the first three plays of the second, they used a ‘heavy package’ with lineman Tyler Cain plunging over from the one-yard line for the first score.  Chase Johnson booted through the extra point and it was 7-0, Roanoke Rapids.

Bertie mounted another long clock-consuming 10-play drive, but had to surrender the ball on downs a second time on the night just beyond the Roanoke Rapids 30.

Again, the Falcon-D held, but when Bertie got the ball back, Wilkens was picked off by Keondre Banks at the Falcon 20.  Two plays later, Da’Raj Watson bulled his way into the end zone and another kick made it a 14-0 Yellow Jacket lead.

That may have awakened the Falcons as Bertie went from their own 36 to the end zone in three plays; two of which were Wilkens bombs: first to Rushon Bond, and the six-pointer to Jacori Vaughan.  A two-point conversion failed and Bertie trailed 14-6 with 1:16 until the break.   Roanoke Rapids couldn’t make it to midfield, and that was the score at halftime.

Bertie opened the second half with an eight-play drive from their own 30 and 70 yards later were in the end zone thanks to Wilkens hooking up once again with Bond, this time on a nine-yarder as he made a scooping catch.  Bertie went for two to tie, but Wilkens’ pass to Vaughan was ruled a drop and it remained a two-point game, 14-12.

Bertie’s next possession saw Wilkens throw his second interception of the night.  However, more stiffening by the Falcon defense resulted in a 30-yard field-goal try by Johnson that was wide-left and Bertie had dodged another bullet.

Getting the ball on the 20-yard line, Cherry broke a 13-yard scramble, but a penalty called it back and the Falcons stayed pinned the entire drive.   Forced to punt deep in his own territory, Lance Freeman was tackled in the end zone for a safety and pushed the Jackets to a four-point lead, 16-12.  That margin held through the end of the third quarter.

On Bertie’s first fourth quarter possession, a shanked punt went a mere two yards and Roanoke Rapids had the ball on the Bertie 33-yard line.  The defense held again for Bertie, forcing the Jackets to go for it on fourth down from the 29.  The play was successful down to the 19, and a couple of runs by fullback Dylan Allen had Roanoke Rapids knocking on the door from the five-yard line.  When Jones surged into the Bertie line, it looked like he had scored, but the officials ruled his knee was down at the half-yard line.  Jones plunged into the line a second time, but this time coughed up the ball on a hit and Bertie recovered for a touchback.

A penalty moved the start of the drive to the 15, and a couple of more Bertie penalties had them in the shadow of their own end zone at the 7 before Wilkens hit Erick Speight out to the 38.  However, in four tries the ball went over on downs when Bertie couldn’t pick up ten more yards.

On the Jackets second play from scrimmage, Jones looked as if he scored from the 45, but a holding call nullified the score.  The Jacket drive died near midfield.  Roanoke Rapids punted and pinned Bertie on the one-yard line.  The Falcons’ last chance at 3-0 was 99 yards away.

Wilkens made a couple of runs to get some breathing room out to the 14 yard line; then hit Malik Moody on a 26-yard gain out to the 40.  Wilkens made a run for no gain, and then had two pass attempts fall short, before the third one sealed the Falcons’ fate.

Roanoke Rapids raises its record to 3-1 while Bertie falls to 2-1.  Bertie is at Southwest Edgecombe next week, while Roanoke Rapids is at Washington.