Gryphons beat Fike, stay unbeaten ahead of Southern Nash showdown

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Rocky Mount High quarterback Jaquan Lynch, left, runs for a touchdown as Wilson Fike's Monta Howard attempts to tackle him Friday during the game at Rocky Mount High School.


Sports Writer

Friday, October 19, 2018

Abdulla Hroub has been confident in his ability to make plays as a defensive tackle. On Friday against visiting Wilson Fike, the Rocky Mount High senior gave reason for his coach to have confidence in him.

“Basically the things weren’t going the way we wanted on defense, and coach (Jason Battle) was telling me that he needed me to make big plays,” Hroub said.

Hroub collected a pair of sacks and was part of a stingy defensive effort in a 42-21 win over the Demons in a Big East Conference game. Hroub entered the game with a half-sack, and found a way to get into Fike’s backfield often.

“All it is is him making the most of opportunities,” Gryphons coach Jason Battle said. “He’s been wanting more opportunities and he made a case for getting more of them tonight, so I'm glad to see him making plays and doing his job.”

The Gryphons (7-0, 3-0) collected three sacks, and hurried Fike quarterback Josh Avery often. Avery finished 9-of-18 passing for 133 yards. RMH bottled up the rushing attack, too, and didn’t allow a 100-yard rusher.

Cody Cooper-Speight led the Demons (2-6, 0-3) with 86 rushing yards and a touchdown.

RMH, meanwhile, was effective on offense and scored on six of its seven drives. Gryphons quarterback Jaquan Lynch opened the scoring with a 12-yard run in the first quarter, and added a wild passing touchdown to Rodell Bridges in the fourth quarter.

Lynch, who finished with 117 passing yards, was chased out of the pocket, and scrambled around four defenders to find Bridges for a 69-yard catch-and-run that pushed the lead to 42-14. It was part of a big day for Bridges who scored three total touchdowns while running for 123 yards and adding two catches for 86.

“I’ve been working on my pocket movement since the beginning of the year,” Lynch said. “Last week I was bad, saw some things on film, so I had to work on that this week. It’s becoming natural now, and once I see a man I just step up and throw.”

Three things

1. The win keeps the Gryphons undefeated heading into Friday’s showdown with fellow unbeaten and conference rival Southern Nash at 7 p.m. in Bailey.

The game will likely decide the conference championship, as neither team has had much trouble earning wins throughout the season. It’s a marquee matchup between a pair of teams that have both displayed high-scoring offensive performances and shut-down defense.

“We still have a lot to do, and we understand that game next week is huge,” Battle said. “But we’ve gotten to the point where we’re ready and it’s going to be a battle.”

2. The Gryphons, despite not allowing Fike many big gains on offense, had a tough time getting off the field on third and fourth downs.

Fike had four drives last at least six minutes as the Demons methodically picked up their 312 total yards. Fike converted 11 different times on either third or fourth down to extend drives, including two instances that ended in a pair of touchdowns just one play later in the drive.

There was little danger in the Demons mounting a comeback without that quick-score ability, but the Gryphons know that they will have to make those stops as tougher competition arrives.

“Our third downs, not getting off the field, personal fouls that keep drives going, it’s just our overall discipline,” Battle said. “We didn’t do a good job getting off the field on third and fourth down.”

3. Rocky Mount High and place-kicking are as stable as ever.

The Gryphons had a few big playoff moments in its recent history that required a steady leg. This season, Saylor Newton is that steady presence.

The senior has missed five kicks this season, but has dialed it in of late. Newton has made his past 12 kicks, including a perfect 6-for-6 on extra points on Friday. He even slipped on the wet grass and fell onto his back, but still managed to put the ball through the uprights on one attempt.

Scoring plays

First quarter

RMH — Jaquan Lynch 12 run (Saylor Newton kick), 5:39

Second quarter

WF — Aaron Bancroft 1 run (Josh Avery kick), 11:22

RMH — Rodell Bridges 5 run (Newton kick), 8:35

RMH — Bridges 38 run (Newton kick), 8:22

WF — Cody Cooper-Speight 3 run (Avery kick), 3:34

RMH — Tashaun Lawrence 33 run (Newton kick), 2:05

Third quarter

RMH — Michael Brooks 2 run (Newton kick), 6:05

Fourth quarter

RMH — Bridges 69 pass from Lynch (Newton kick), 11:14

WF — Bancroft 2 run (Avery kick), 4:02

Up next

Rocky Mount High at Southern Nash, 7 p.m. Friday. Northern Nash at Wilson Fike, 7 p.m. Friday