Bears roar past Barons in season opener

Published 6:27 pm Saturday, August 19, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

AHOSKIE – Elijah Outlaw rushed for a game-high 167 yards and scored three touchdowns as Hertford County opened its 2023 football season here Friday night with a 62-12 win over Gates County.

Elijah Outlaw (right) barrels into Gates County defender A.J. Riddick during Friday’s season opener in Ahoskie. Outlaw rushed for 167 yards and scored three touchdowns to lead Hertford County to a 62-12 win. Photo by William Anthony

The Bears, who flashed one of the state’s most prolific offenses last year, didn’t seem to lose any of that steam as HCHS accounted for 486 total yards (361 rushing and 125 passing).

The victory was significant in another way as it marked Ronald Gatling’s first win as a head coach. Gatling, a 1979 graduate of Ahoskie High School, played for the legendary Daryl Allen.

“This one was special for me,” said Gatling, who had actually retired as an HCHS assistant coach last year before being brought back to lead the staff of the 2023 squad after former head coach Terrance Saxby left Ahoskie in late July to become the head coach at New Bern High School.

Gatling said he was impressed with his team’s execution on both sides of the ball against Gates County.

“The kids did everything we, as a coaching staff, asked of them,” Gatling said. “We’re using a more balanced style of play offensively simply because we feel we have numerous weapons. We are going to spread the wealth.”

“We were very exited and pleased with what we saw on Friday and now we’ve got to get ready for a test at Tarboro,” Gatling added.

Leading 16-6 late in the first quarter, Hertford County put the game away by scoring five times over a span of 13 minutes and 42 seconds.

The first of those scores came after Hertford County’s Raymond Lewter Jr. pounced on a failed onside kick, setting the Bears up in good field position at their own 48 yardline. Highlighted by a 17-yard scamper by Outlaw and a 26-yard gallop by Keveon Rodgers on back-to-back snaps, HCHS quickly gained the red zone inside the 10 yardline. Two plays later, Rodgers scored from one yard out and coupled with his two-point conversion pass to Rimiez Williams, HCHS had increased its lead to 24-6 with 1:38 left in the first period.

The Bears then exploded for four touchdowns in second quarter en route to a commanding 54-6 halftime lead.

After forcing a Gates County punt to open the second period, the Bears struck quickly. Set up by a 42-yard pass from Rodgers to Jar’Marcus White, Outlaw reeled off a 22-yard touchdown run on the game’s next snap. Jordan Staton added the conversion run for a 32-6 lead at the 11:32 mark of the second period.

HCHS got the ball back at midfield after forcing the Barons to punt from deep in their own territory. After an incomplete pass on first down, Wayne Futrell had three straight carries, the last of which covered 39 yards for a touchdown and a 38-6 lead after the conversion pass failed.

Futrell would finish the game as Hertford County’s second leading rusher with 85 yards on just four carries.

On the game’s ensuing possession, Gates County fumbled (one of five on the night for the visitors) and HCHS defender ZhaeTwan Wells recovered at midfield. Four plays later, Rodgers connected with Williams on a 38-yard scoring pass. Futrell added the conversion run as the Bears’ advantage increased to 46-6 with 4:24 left in the first half.

Gates County’s Damari Cooper had 119 rushing yards and scored both of his team’s touchdowns against the Bears. Photo by William Anthony

After forcing a Barons punt, HCHS took over at their own 24 yardline after being flagged for a personal foul. Two snaps later, Outlaw took off on a 64-yard touchdown run. Staton added the conversion run for a 54-6 halftime lead.

Hertford County’s only score of the second half was set up by Lewter’s fumble recovery at Gates County’s 41 yardline. Three plays later, Staton scored on a 16-yard run. Futrell ran in the conversion as the Bears lead swelled to 62-6 at the 5:22 mark of the third quarter.

Gates County tallied the game’s final touchdown, driving 61 yards in six plays capped by a three-yard TD run by Damari Cooper early in the fourth quarter.

Cooper led the Barons with 119 rushing yards on 14 carries.

The Bears scored on the game’s opening series, marching 71 yards in five plays capped by Futrell’s 35-yard scamper up the middle. He added the conversion run for an 8-0 lead with the game less than two minutes old.

Set up by Chase Everett’s fumble recovery deep inside Gates County territory, the Bears increased their lead to 16-0 on a 10-yard touchdown run by Outlaw followed by Futrell’s conversion run at the 5:32 mark of the first quarter.

The Barons quickly responded, driving 63 yards in six plays capped by Cooper’s nine-yard touchdown run, narrowing Gates County’s deficit to 16-6 with 3:02 left in the opening period.

Hertford County (1-0) travels to Tarboro High School on Friday, Aug. 25 for their next game. Gates County (0-1) will look to rebound at home the same evening when they play host to Pasquotank County. Both games begin at 7 p.m.

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