Bears deliver one-two punch in season-opening win

Published 5:01 pm Friday, August 19, 2022

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GATESVILLE – By air and by ground…Hertford County High School delivered here Thursday night.

Led by junior quarterback Keveon Rodgers, who passed for 229 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 126 yards and two additional scores, the Bears blanked Gates County, 46-0, in the season opener for both teams.

Hertford County’s defense also turned in a superb effort led by junior linebacker Devontae Cofield’s seven tackles. Senior defensive lineman Dawon Speller had six stops while junior linebacker Christian Brown and senior lineman Brian Flores had four tackles each.

But the story of the night was Rodgers. He looked unfazed in the pocket and was on target, completing 15-of-18 passes with just one interception. He also spread the ball around, completing passes to six different receivers. Rimiez Williams (four receptions for 78 yards), Isreal Powell (3-74), Colin Brock (3-38), and Jahuan Bond (3-21) were the top receivers.

Hertford County’s ground game also delivered. While Rodgers led the way with 126 rushing yards, fellow junior Elijah Outlaw was also effective, rushing 11 times for 107 yards and one touchdown. Junior reserve Jeremiah Benthall saw action late in the game where he rushed four times for 33 yards.

The Bears finished with 263 rushing yards on 26 carries. Combined with their air attack, the Bears totaled 492 yards.

Hertford County wasted very little time scoring their first touchdown of the 2022 season. After a three-and-out by Gates County on the game’s opening possession, the Bears scored on their second play from scrimmage, a 51-yard hook-up between Rodgers and Powell. The conversion run failed, but Hertford County had a 6-0 lead at the 9:35 mark of the first quarter.

Taking over near midfield, the Bears scored on their next possession, driving 51 yards in four plays capped by a 21-yard scoring pass from Rodgers to Brock. The conversion run again failed, but the Bears had doubled their lead to 12-0 with 4:48 left in the opening period.

Gates County answered with their best drive of the night. Highlighted by a 40-yard scamper by junior Dorien Melton, the Red Barons set up shop inside the Bears 10 yardline. However, the HCHS defense stiffened at that point and Gates turned the ball over on loss of downs at the HCHS six yardline.

Sparked by runs of 19 yards by Outlaw and 27 yards by Rodgers, the Bears drove to the Gates 34 yardline on their next possession. But that drive ended when Red Barons defender Semaj Cross made a leaping interception of a Rodgers pass at the four yardline.

Later in the second quarter, the Bears were able to stretch their lead to 20-0 when Rodgers floated a pass over a defender’s head into the waiting arms of junior Jayden Robinson in the back corner of the endzone for a 17-yard touchdown. The same two connected on the conversion pass to close out the first half scoring.

The Bears scored once in the third quarter, driving 62 yards in just four plays with the opening possession of the second half. That drive ended with Rodgers calling his own number on a running play and he broke free on a 50-yard jaunt to paydirt. The PAT kick failed, but Hertford County had stretched their lead to 26-0 at the 10:18 mark of the period.

Gates County, who totaled 174 yards – all on the ground – for the game, used a strong effort by Melton (who led the ‘Barons with 96 rushing yards on 17 carries) to twice penetrate Hertford County territory in the third quarter. One drive ended on loss of downs at the Bears 29 yardline while the other ended in similar fashion at the 28.

Hertford County reached the endzone three times in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

Rodgers tallied the first of those scores when he shed four would-be tacklers en route to a 29-yard scamper to paydirt with 10:56 left in the game.

One possession later, Rodgers tossed a 47-yard scoring pass to Williams followed by Bond’s successful two-point conversion run with 8:33 remaining.

Outlaw’s one-yard run to cap a 50-yard, seven-play drive with 39 seconds left ended the scoring.

The Bears (1-0) will host defending Class 1-A state champion Tarboro High School during a 7 p.m. non-conference clash on Friday, Aug. 26.

Gates County (0-1) travels to Pasquotank County for a 7 p.m. non-conference contest on Aug. 26.

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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