Rain, mud and overtime

Published 5:02 pm Monday, September 4, 2017

GATESVILLE – Football players love competing in less than ideal conditions.

For proof, just ask Gates County’s Jawan Riddick.

Despite unsure footing on a field left wet and muddy thanks to a heavy downpour in the first period, the junior quarterback threw for two touchdowns and ran for three more scores, including the game-winner in overtime, as the Red Barons outlasted visiting Bertie High, 34-28, in a non-conference game here Thursday night.

Gates County’s Ron Olsen (#15) attempts to step away from a would-be Bertie defender as the rain falls on Thursday night during a non-conference battle. Olsen and the Red Barons won for the second week in a row, defeating the Falcons, 34-28, in overtime. Second Chance Productions Photo by Andre Alfred

Ironically, the game had been moved up one day due to the prediction of rain on Friday.

However, Thursday’s muddy surface proved acceptable for both teams as they combined for nine touchdowns and 625 yards of offense. What makes that latter number so intriguing is the fact that Bertie’s offense accounted for 407 of those yards, and lost.

It did appear that the Falcons (now 1-2 overall after dropping their second straight game vs. a Class 1-A opponent) had gained all the momentum needed for a win after scoring twice over a span of 12 seconds in the fourth quarter.

Trailing 21-16, the Falcons launched a drive from near midfield in the early stages of the final period. Highlighted by a 36 yard pass from sophomore quarterback Isaiah Williams to Jamari White, Bertie drove 52 yards in five plays, capped by Lacurtis Askew’s three-yard scoring run. The conversion run failed, but Bertie had the lead at 22-21 with 8:27 left in the game.

Twelve seconds later, that advantage grew to 28-21 when, on Gates County’s first offensive play following the ensuing kickoff, Bertie linebacker Emonte Mebane accurately diagnosed a screen pass and intercepted the aerial, returning it untouched 49 yards to the endzone. Again, the conversion run failed, but the Falcons owned a seven-point cushion at the 8:15 mark of the fourth quarter.

However, Riddick and the Red Barons had an answer.

Gates County’s Jordan Robinson got his team in good field position on the Red Barons next drive by returning the kickoff to Bertie’s 48 yardline. Two key third down conversions kept the drive alive, a 13-yard run by Ron Olsen on a third-and-12 play and a 23 yard hook-up between Riddick and Robinson on a third-and-10 snap. Four plays later, Gates faced a fourth-and-8 play from the 12 yardline. Riddick, looking to pass, was flushed out of the pocket and scrambled for 10 yards and a first-and-goal situation at Bertie’s two yardline. Riddick dove over the top of the pile and into the endzone on the next snap. Coupled with a perfect PAT kick by Caleb Brickhouse, the game was deadlocked at 28-28 with 4:47 remaining in the fourth period.

The Falcons had two chances to win the game in regulation, but couldn’t reach the endzone.

Highlighted by a 42-yard pass from Williams to Jordin Morning, Bertie reached the GCHS 38 yardline with two minutes left, but that drive eventually ended without advancing the ball any further.

Then, the Falcons caught a break on Gates County’s final drive of the period when Morning, now on defense, pounced on a Red Barons fumble at the GCHS 35 yardline with 13 seconds left. Bertie couldn’t capitalize due to a sack of Williams by Daniel Holloman on the final play of regulation.

That set-up overtime, where each team has a series of four snaps to travel only 10 yards to the endzone.

Gates County won the coin toss and elected to first go on defense. Bertie’s first three offensive snaps, all rushing attempts, netted only two yards. On fourth down, Williams lofted a high, arching pass towards the goal line, only to see Gates County defensive back Altoria Wilkins leap high and intercept the aerial.

Now it was Gates County’s offensive turn in overtime and the Red Barons used their ground game to score. Demond Jones had back-to-back carries of four yards each followed by Riddick’s game-winning run as he slipped between the guard and tackle and darted into the endzone.

Ironically, the Red Barons started the game just like it ended, with a touchdown.

Gates County took the game’s opening kick-off and drove 52 yards in five plays, capped by Riddick’s 22-yard TD pass to Olsen. Brickhouse split the uprights with the PAT kick for a 7-0 lead at the 8:25 mark of the first quarter.

Then the rain came, heavy at times for the reminder of the first period and into the early stages of the second quarter.

But that failed to slow down the Falcons as they answered with a seven play, 73 yard drive, all on the ground, led by Williams, Askew and Marcus Philyaw. Williams, on a quarterback option, had the scoring honors, using a key downfield block by Nate Cherry to scramble 13 yards to paydirt. Philyaw ran in the two-point conversion, handing Bertie an 8-7 lead with 5:54 left in the opening period.

Bertie running back Lacurtis Askew is tackled by Gates County defenders Dyrion Bryant (#5) and Vincent Hart (#7) during Thursday night’s non-conference clash. Askew rushed for a game-high 123 yards, but Gates County prevailed, 34-28 in overtime. Second Chance Productions Photo by Andre Alfred

Two possessions and the end of the rain later, Bertie used another key play from Williams, a nifty 41-yard scamper, to highlight a five play, 70 yard scoring march capped by Philyaw’s four-yard TD run. Askew ran in the conversion for a 16-7 lead at the 8:16 mark of the second quarter.

The Falcons appeared to be headed for another first half score, using 10 plays to drive from their own 29 to the Gates County 11. Williams attempted a pass from that point, but GCHS defender Dyrion Bryant stepped in front of the receiver to intercept the aerial. Ninety-six yards later, Bryant was in the endzone with what appeared as a “pick-six” but it was all for naught as the Red Barons were flagged for hitting Williams late.

The start of the second half saw a dominating effort by the Gates defense. After being run over in the first half – where Bertie had 222 total yards (212 of those on the ground) – the Red Barons changed their strategy by putting more pressure on Williams, which disrupted the timing of Bertie’s offense. It worked, at least on the first three Falcon drives, as Bertie ran nine plays for only four net yards.

Meanwhile, the Red Barons lit the fuse on their offense in a big way.

On Gates County’s second series of the third quarter, Riddick hit sophomore wide receiver Deronye’ Griffen in full stride for a 65-yard touchdown. Brickhouse tacked on the PAT as the Red Barons trimmed their deficit to 16-14 at the 5:35 mark of the third quarter.

After another three-and-out by Bertie’s offense, Olsen returned the punt to the Falcons 38. Four plays later, Riddick scored from 11 yards out. Coupled with the PAT from Brickhouse, Gates County reclaimed the lead at 21-16 with a shade over two minutes left in the third quarter.

Riddick led Gates County’s offense, accounting for 167 of the team’s 218 total yards. He completed seven of 16 passes for 136 yards (105 coming in the second half) while adding 31 rushing yards on eight attempts.

Askew was the game’s top rusher, leading Bertie with 123 yards on 20 carries. Williams was a double threat for the Falcons, running for 92 yards (85 in the first half) and passing for 88 yards.

Gates County, now 2-1 overall after back-to-back wins over Class 2-A opponents, will travel to Southside High School (Chocowinity) on Friday, Sept. 8 for another non-conference game.

Bertie is at home on the same date, hosting longtime local rival Edenton, also a non-conference contest.

Both games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. starts.


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.

email author More by Cal