‘Barons bounce back
GATESVILLE – Offense, defense, special teams…Gates County High School used all three to secure their first win of the 2021 football season here Friday night.
Semaj Cross rushed for a career high 152 yards and two touchdowns and added another score on an electrifying 70-yard kickoff return while the Red Barons defense held their ground three times inside the 25 yardline as GCHS topped visiting Pasquotank County High School 28-12 in a non-conference contest.
The Red Barons, now 1-1 on the young season, will host Manteo (0-2) in another non-conference test this Friday (Sept. 3) at 7 p.m.
Clinging to a narrow 8-6 lead at halftime, the Red Barons scored twice during the first six minutes of the third quarter.
The first touchdown of the period came in typical fashion of a Matt Biggy coached team – a methodical, but productive, ground game. Taking over at their own 37 yardline, the Red Barons fed the ball to Cross and Nasir Jones, both of whom took advantage of excellent blocking from their offensive linemen. Seven plays and 44 yards later, GCHS had reached the Panthers 18 yardline. From there, Cross took the handoff and darted over the right side of the line for a touchdown. Damari Cooper ran in the two-point conversion for a 16-6 lead at the 8:04 mark of the third quarter.
Pasquotank answered quickly, driving 50 yards in only three plays capped by a 35-yard touchdown pass from Kyler White to Christopher Morgan. The conversion run failed, but the Panthers had narrowed their deficit to 16-12 with 6:32 left in the period.
That deficit grew to 10 points in a matter of 16 seconds. Gathering in the ensuing kickoff at his own 30 yardline, Cross raced straight ahead. Despite suffering a cramp as he neared the endzone, the GCHS junior rewarded his teammates with six points by completing the 70-yard kickoff return. The conversion run failed, but the ‘Barons inflated their cushion to 22-12 at the 6:16 mark of the third quarter.
Gates County’s defense rose to the challenge on the game’s next possession as Montae Johnson batted away a fourth-down pass in the endzone to deny the Panthers.
The Red Barons then launched a “grind-it-out” 14 play, 62-yard drive highlighted by Jones who rushed for 43 of his 97 yards on that march. Although Gates County failed to get any points off that drive, it took nearly eight minutes off the game clock, thus keeping Pasquotank’s potent passing attack off the field.
Gates County added a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, using a key 14-yard run by Johnson on a 4th-and-4 play to drive 53 yards in 10 plays capped by a two-yard TD run by Jones to account for the 28-12 finale.
Despite squandering a pair of scoring opportunities in the first quarter (stopped on downs at the Pasquotank 15 yardline and losing a fumble at the Panthers one yardline), the Red Barons never trailed in the game.
After a scoreless first quarter, Gates County struck first on a 17-yard TD run by Cross on the second snap of the second quarter. Jones ran in the conversion for an 8-0 lead.
After returning the ensuing kickoff to Gates County’s 28 yardline, the Panthers answered quickly with a four-play drive capped by White’s 25-yard scoring pass to Devin Perry. The conversion run failed, leaving Pasquotank with an 8-6 deficit.
Gates County’s defense allowed that score to remain the same at halftime. Senior defensive lineman Aundray Riddick had a hand in stopping one Pasquotank drive with a quarterback sack (-9 yards) and the Panthers, with no timeouts left, couldn’t get off a play from the Gates County seven yardline as the first half clock expired.
Gates County amassed 261 yards of total offense, all on the ground (58 rushing attempts).
White led Pasquotank, completing 12-of-25 passes for 161 yards. The Panthers ground game was not a factor, losing 13 yards on 14 tries.