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Take a bow: Ricks, running game help Gryphons edge Nash Central

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Rocky Mount High’s Mar'Quevion Ricks, left, avoids Nash Central’s tackle as he runs in for a touchdown Friday at Nash Central High School.

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By SAMUEL EVERS
Sports Writer

Friday, September 21, 2018

The varsity stats for junior Rocky Mount High wide receiver Mar’Quevion Ricks were non-existent entering Friday night. He was ready to put an end to that.

Playing cross-town rival Nash Central at Nash Central High School, Ricks served as the catalyst for two of the Gryphons’ six touchdowns on the way to a 41-7 victory over the Bulldogs, who have now lost three in a row, all to former conference mates Southern Nash, Northern Nash and Rocky Mount High.

“I knew it was going to come,” said Ricks, who pointed out that he hadn’t scored a touchdown since freshman year, having sat out his sophomore season. “I was just waiting to have a great game.”

He had two catches. Both were paramount. The first came in the second quarter, on a 17-yard slant pass delivered perfectly by Jaquan Lynch. Ricks sliced through the secondary untouched for his first varsity catch, yardage gain and touchdown.

“The touchdown catch was good, but I was waiting for something bigger,” he said. “I’m a go-route type player.”

On the next catch, he found what we was looking for — a finger tipped-catch from Lynch on a deep ball down the right sideline. Ricks secured it, shed a defender, and took it all the way down to the one-yard line, just missing his second score of the day.

The Gryphons pounded it in the next play.

“He can do some special things,” coach Jason Battle said. “He just needed time to learn and understand what we’re doing, and he’s still figuring it out, but he did a good job tonight.”

Collectively, the defense for Rocky Mount was again stout, allowing the run-first Bulldogs just 45 first-half rushing yards. The hard work culminated in the fourth quarter, when senior defensive end Alandis Trevathan scooped up a fumbled snap and took it 25 yards for a touchdown, then making the score 34-0.

On offense, Lynch finished with 98 yards passing and a touchdown throw while seven different rushers combined for more than 250 yards.

Rodell Bridges added to his touchdown total with a 19-yard run for a score in the first quarter; Michael Brooks found the end zone twice and Antwain Dunston added another in the final minute for good measure.

The lone scorer for the Bulldogs was Kendall Winston. The All-State cornerback finished with 46 yards rushing.

“They game-planned us pretty good,” Nash Central coach Chris Lee said. “They’ve got a good team. They’re much better and much improved from last year. They were real physical, and they can run and throw it. That kept us on our toes a little bit.”

Three things

1. After the game, RMHS offensive line coach C.J. Bethea had a worried look on his face. It had nothing to do with the victory. It had everything to do with a promise he made to his crew.

“I told them if we put up 40 points and 350 yards I’d buy them all pancakes,” he said, motioning towards the 41 on the scoreboard.

By this sportswriter’s estimation, the Gryphons were right at 360.

Was IHOP the pancake shop of choice?

“Yep,” sighed Bethea.

2. Without much offensive success in the first half, or the game, Nash Central was forced into punting six different times in the first two quarters. Byron Hawkins did a good job on all of them, three times pinning the Gryphons within their own 20-yard line.

3. To open the second half, RMHS got the ball on its own 30-yard line, ran five running plays to three different halfbacks, and finished the drive with a score 1:22 into the third quarter. That made it 27-0, and furthered the distance between Nash Central and a real shot at making it a game.

“After the first half that we had, the first drive of the second half had to set the tone,” Battle said. “We emphasize that all the time.”

He said it

Chris Lee, on his team’s search for a consistent quarterback after splitting time between Jaylen Williams and Tanagi Pittman on Friday: “Tanagi came in and did real well. I’ll probably just keep flip-flopping around until one of them’s working. If not we’ll try another one.”

Scoring plays

First quarter

RM - Rodell Bridges 19-yard run, Saylor Newton kick, 6:56

Second quarter

RM - Jaquan Lynch 17-yard pass to Mar’Quevion Ricks, Newton kick, 9:54

RM- Michael Brooks 1-yard run, Newton kick, 6:10

Third quarter

RM - Brooks 7-yard run, kick failed, 10:47

Fourth quarter

RM - Alandis Trevathan 25-yard fumble return, Newton kick, 11:42

NC - Tanagi Pittman 4-yard run, kick good, 8:05

RM - Antwain Dunston 3-yard rush, Newton kick, 1:46

Next

Nash Central and Rocky Mount High both have next week off. The Bulldogs pick back up on Friday, Oct. 5 with a home game against conference opponent Farmville Central, while the Gryphons begin Big East play on Oct. 5 at home against Franklinton.

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