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Rivalry night: Gryphons, Lynch pass past Northern Nash

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Rocky Mount High quarterback Jaquan Lynch, left, looks to pass as Northern Nash's Michael Bunn applies pressure Thursday at Rocky Mount High School.

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By PATRICK MASON
Sports Writer

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Jaquan Lynch was set free on Thursday, and the Rocky Mount High quarterback showed his coaches that passing the football could be the answer to a deep postseason run.

Lynch took advantage of the heavy dose of passing play calls and turned in his best game of the season in a 53-21 win over visiting Big East Conference and in-town rival Northern Nash.

“We wanted to try to get our quarterback and receivers some confidence early on,” Gryphons coach Jason Battle said. “And I’m somewhat pleased. (Lynch) threw the ball better in the first half than he has in a while and he looked comfortable doing it. So hopefully we can build on that going into the playoffs.”

The first round of the playoffs begins on Nov. 16, and RMH (8-1, 4-1) could be in position to host a pair of games. And unlike Northern Nash (3-6, 0-4), which hosts Southern Nash next week, this was the Gryphons’ final game of the regular season. They’ll have plenty of tape to examine over the next two weeks.

Lynch threw for a season-high 252 yards to go with three touchdowns, and he started piling up those numbers quick. He opened the scoring with a 43-yard touchdown pass to Mar'quevion Ricks who made an over-the-shoulder grab as he crossed the goal line.

Later in the first half, Lynch threw the first of two touchdown passes to Jalen Powell to push the lead to 27-0. The lead would balloon to 33-0 before the Knights found the end zone.

“It’s an honor to play with him. It’s fun to play when he’s throwing the ball like that,” Powell said of his quarterback. “We’re playing good, and once we got up 21 quick, you know it was a good start.”

The game featured two of the top three passers in the Big East in Lynch and Northern Nash senior Davontae Wiggins. Both passers threw for more than 200 yards and three touchdowns on a night where they combined for 59 attempts.

Wiggins did everything he could to jumpstart the Knights’ comeback attempt, but a slew of dropped passes hampered the effort including a dropped would-be touchdown pass in the end zone.

Still, Wiggins threw for 230 yards and ran for 69 more.

“I think Davontae was pretty accurate tonight, one of the most accurate nights he’s had,” Knights coach Andrew Farriss said. “Tonight the game plan was to unload the whole truck and throw everything at them that we had. We had some receivers look away before they caught the ball, and in some cases let (Wiggins) down at the receiver spot.”

Three things

1. Rocky Mount High’s loss to Southern Nash last week was one of just two games this season where the Gryphons didn’t pass for at least 100 yards. Quarterback Jaquan Lynch finished with 90 in a game that was dominated by the ground game.

But the Gryphons got back to passing on Thursday and the results followed with a win. Over the course of the first half, RMH called 20 rushing plays and 19 passing plays. About as balanced as possible.

Across the first half, the Gryphons never ran more than three consecutive times before mixing in a passing play. Battle believes the Gryphons will have to replicate this style in the postseason to be successful.

“You got to have balance,” Battle said. “We are a pretty good run team, but the further you go (in the playoffs) people are better and when they stack the box on you and you can’t throw it, you don’t win.”

2. Rocky Mount High’s running game has been dominated by a little sweet and sour combination in Rodell Bridges and Tashaun Lawrence. Bridges, the punishing runner, and Lawrence, the shifty speed option, are 1-2 in rushing yards and touchdowns.

But junior Antwain Dunston is moving his way up the ranks and earning more snaps. That could continue moving forward after Dunston turned in another strong effort. Nicknamed ‘Bo’ because he’s built like Bo Jackson, Dunston has morphed into the Gryphons’ closer.

He finished with a game-high 150 rushing yards, including a 93-yard touchdown.

“He was a starter early and he still rotates in,” Battle said. “He got an ankle injury and we found someone else that’s doing a good job, but (Dunston) is not really a second-teamer and he makes the most of his opportunities. He’s big and strong and he runs well.”

3. Battle was impressed by Northern Nash quarterback Davonate Wiggins and what he was able to do through the air against the Gryphons’ pass defense.

Wiggins was effective, especially in the second half with 156 yards and two touchdowns. Drops were the only thing that slowed the Knights’ offense, and could be a point of concern for RMH moving forward.

“It’s good and bad because they dropped a lot of balls when the guys were open, so it could be that somebody just found something out about us,” Battle said. “So we have to go back to the drawing board to see what we’re doing. The best thing that can help your secondary is to get a pass rush.”

Scoring plays

First quarter

RMH - Mar'quevion Ricks 43 pass from Jaquan Lynch (run failed), 8:29

RMH - Alandis Trevathan fumble recovery (Michael Brooks run), 6:23

RMH - Tashaun Lawrence 1 run (Saylor Newton kick), 3:29

Second quarter

RMH - Jalen Powell 28 pass from Lynch (kick failed), 11:52

RMH - Rodell Bridges 7 run (kick failed), 8:44

NN - Tarod Brown 16 pass from Davontae Wiggins (Parker Dickens kick), 3:05

RMH - Brooks 78 run (Newton kick), 33.5

Third quarter

NN - Carresian Whitaker 26 pass from Wiggins (Dickens kick), 9:09

RMH - Powell 71 pass from Lynch (kick failed), 3:12

Fourth quarter

NN - Whitaker 22 pass from Wiggins (Dickens kick), 8:02

RMH - Antwain Dunston 93 run (Newton kick), 4:07

Up next

Southern Nash at Northern Nash, Nov. 9.

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