Cougars run all over Hertford County in playoff opener
By PATRICK MASON
Saturday, November 11, 2017
The SouthWest Edgecombe defense had one mission during Friday’s NCHSAA 2-A first-round playoff game against visiting Hertford County.
“They had two players that we had to shut down,” Cougars safety Jahkele Goins said of Bears running backs Kyeem Perry and Zion Riddick. “Their entire offense runs through them. If we shut them down, then they have to get outside their comfort zone and come at us.”
Everything unfolded they way the Cougars imagined it would. The defense kept the two backs from finding the end zone and forced the Bears into tough passing situations. Meanwhile, the Cougars offense showed off its rushing game en route to a 34-13 win.
The sixth-seeded Cougars gained 264 yards on the ground, led by Alex Foster’s team-high 147 yards and three touchdowns. The 230-pound Foster blasted through the Bears defense for a pair of short-yardage scores, and displayed his speed with a 51-yard score where he ran away from the defense.
It was the type of dominant running that SWE (10-2) has punished opponents with all season. Hertford County (6-6) tried everything to shut down the run from sending blitzes off the edge to putting as many as 10 players near the line of scrimmage.
“Every week we see teams put as many guys as they can in the box,” Foster said. “That’s the only way they think they can stop us. But we practice that. We have our guys in practice send 11 through every gap at us, and we learned to pick them up, and now here we are.”
The Cougars scored four rushing touchdowns before adding a late touchdown through the air with 7:30 left in the fourth quarter to tight end TJ Harris on a play-action pass. Dashon Bandy added the other score on the ground on a 77-yard run to answer a Hertford County score.
The Bears drove 60 yards on the game’s first possession to take a 7-0 lead. SWE answered with a Foster touchdown, before the Bears drove 70 yards to take a 13-7 lead. Perry was able to move the ball for the Bears, and finished with a game-high 182 yards.
And while the Hertford County offense was able to drive the field early, the Cougars defense showed up in the red zone thanks to Goins. The senior entered the game with a team-leading six interceptions, and he added two more when he intercepted Bears quarterback Lance Hunter twice in the first half.
Both picks came in the red zone, ending a pair of Hertford Country drives at the Cougars’ 14 and 15 yard lines.
“He does a good job of reading the quarterback’s eyes,” SWE coach Jonathan Cobb said.
Goins said he has grown comfortable at the safety position, and after trading scores with the Bears early, he had enough.
“This is not basketball,” Goins said. “We don’t like that back-and-forth. We have to run the score up. The nerves, they stop. All I’m thinking about it getting us off the field and get the ball back to Alex (Foster).”
SWE took a 20-13 lead into halftime, and held the Bears to just three second-half possessions that went punt, lost fumble, punt.
The Cougars will travel to Jacksonville next week to play No. 3 Southwest Onslow in the second round. Southwest Onslow trailed 6-0 at halftime, but scored 35 unanswered points in a 35-6 win over No. 14 Greensboro.