Missed opportunities doom Barons

Published 10:02 am Tuesday, November 7, 2023

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GATESVILLE – Despite three trips into the red zone, Gates County failed to score in the second half here Friday night and dropped a 20-14 decision to Weldon High School in the opening round of the Class 1A NCHSAA State Playoffs.

Tied 14-14 at halftime, the Barons methodically drove downfield, taking 13 plays to cover 79 yards and reached the Weldon one yardline on a four-yard run by A.J. Riddick. But GCHS went backwards from that point as an illegal motion penalty and a negative rushing play took the wind out of their sails and the Barons suffered possession on loss of downs at the Chargers 8 yardline.

Weldon then put together what proved to be the game-winning drive. Aid by two key passes by Sylvester Witherspoon (18 yards to Detron Burgess Jr. and 37 yards to Ky’Saan Bevier) plus a pair of 15-yard penalties against Gates County, the Chargers moved 92 yards in 10 plays, scoring on Witherspoon’s one-yard run. The conversion run failed, but the visitors had a 20-14 lead with 10:08 left in the game.

The Barons got a boost when A.J. Hart returned the ensuing kickoff 39 yards to Weldon’s 47 yardline. Sparked by a 24-yard run by DaMari Cooper, GCHS marched to the Chargers 3 yardline. However, they couldn’t finish the drive, eventually losing possession on downs at the 5 yardline with six minutes left to play.

Gates County got one final possession, starting a drive at Weldon’s 46 yardline following a short put with 2:49 left. Runs by Cooper and Riddick allowed the Barons to reach the 19 yardline, but that’s where GCHS surrendered the pigskin on loss of downs with 51 seconds left and the Chargers ran out the clock.

Featuring time-consuming drives, both teams scored two touchdowns in the first half.

Weldon opened the game with a 12-play drive capped by Witherspoon’s 19-yard TD pass to Bevier on a fourth down play. The conversion run failed, but the visitors led 6-0 at the 6:26 mark of the first quarter.

Gates County answered with a 12-play drive of their own. With Cooper getting the bulk of the carries, the Barons marched 69 yards in just over five minutes. Cooper ended the drive with a three-yard run, which coupled with Deandrey Smith’s conversion run staked Gates County to an 8-6 lead with 1:17 left in the opening period.

Back came the Chargers with a seven-play drive that ended with Witherspoon’s 23-yard scoring pass to Bevier. Burgess ran in the conversion as Weldon reclaimed the lead, 14-8 at the 10:28 mark of the second quarter.

Gates County responded with an 85-yard drive in 18 plays that took over eight and one-half minutes. Thanks to the work of its offensive line – Savion Butts, Jauheim Boone, Carson Stallings, Hunter Coates, T.J. Reid, Brier Vann, and Lavont Jones – the Barons converted two critical fourth downs plays to keep the drive alive. Smith’s one-yard TD run ended the march and despite failing to convert the conversion, Gates County tied the game at 14-14 with just under two minutes remaining until halftime.

Gates County, which ends its season at 5-6 overall, finished the game with 276 yards of total offense, all on the ground. Cooper led that effort with 184 yards on 30 carries. Jaden Parker added 32 rushing yards, followed by Riddick (29 yards), and Smith (27 yards).

The Chargers, who improved to 5-4 overall, had 228 total yards (134 rushing and 94 passing).

Weldon, with four wins in its last five game, travels to meet third-seeded Wilson Prep on Friday, Nov. 10. Wilson Prep had a bye in the first round.


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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