A defense can do only so much.
Occasionally, a return from a turnover earns six points, but more often than not, the responsibility of putting points on the board is left up to the offense.
Facing a fourth-and-three and having his number called for the first time in more than a quarter, Rocky Mount High running back Mason Hines knew Friday that it finally was time to pay back his defense.
Hines converted on the play, despite first being touched three yards behind the line of scrimmage, and a few plays later plunged the ball across the goal line.
A perfect thank you, and a 17-14 victory against Hertford County at Gryphons Stadium.
“The offense told (the defense) on the sideline that if they keep stopping them, we are going to score,” Hines said. “After the defense stopped them again, we had to pay them back.”
After allowing 254 yards and 11 first downs in the first half, Rocky Mount (3-0) finally figured out how to play defense. Whether it was inspiring words from their chaplain or a refocused unit, the Gryphons allowed just 66 yards in the second half and no first downs until Hertford County’s final drive, which stalled just outside of field goal range as the clock expired.
“We knew they weren’t better than us up front defensively,” linebacker Ahmad Harrell said. “We just had to play up. We were playing down.”
So after the Gryphons’ defensive unit – nicknamed the ‘Dark Side’ – held Hertford County (2-1) to no first downs in the third quarter and just 16 yards on four possessions, it was time for coach Jason Battle to roll the dice.
Needing three yards to pick up a first down just five yards from midfield, Battle called for a toss to the right.
His team had gained a combined seven yards on its previous three possessions.
“I’m too young to know any better,” Battle said with a laugh.
But with a running back like Hines, Battle can follow his beliefs.
He hates giving up the football.
“I felt like this was going to be the turning point of the game,” Battle said. “We had to go for it.”
Hines was grabbed by a defender in the backfield but broke loose and ran for a first down and 14 yards. Four plays later he was back in the end zone – he returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the second quarter.
“He’s going to fight, he’s going to fight, he’s going to fight,” Battle said. “There’s a lot of growth in him as a young man.”
From there, the defense took over again.
Rocky Mount forced a punt, picked off a pass and celebrated a victory to end Hertford County’s final three possessions.
“They just made up their minds that they were going to run, they were going to hit and they were going to play football,” Battle said. “Our defense won the football game.”
Rocky Mount 17
Hertford County 14
HC 0 14 0 0 – 14
RMH 3 7 0 7 – 17
RMH – Micah Varnell 22 field goal, :51.9
HC – Kevin Privott 49 pass from Ryan Weaver (Ackerman Grace kick), 11:16
HC – Weaver 2 run (Grace kick), 2:53
RMH – Mason Hines 89 kick return (Varnell kick), 2:39
RMH – Hines 2 run (Varnell kick), 8:17
13 First downs..............8
68 Passing yards..........39
320 Total offense...........191
Rushing – RMH: Mason Hines 16-82; Tyrell Williams 10-67; Broderick Caudle 4-13: Ahmad Harrell 2-4; J.T. Smith 1-(-2); Rashawn Harris 4-(-12). HC – Kenneth Sharpe 19-118; Anthony Lasstier 12-77; Tyus Leary 6-35; Ryan Weaver -89; Christopher Jordan 2-2; Dwyane Bishop 1-1.
Passing – RMH: Smith 2-7-0 39. HC – Weaver 3-8-0 68.
Receiving – RMH: Michael Hines 1-33; Mason Hines 1-6. HC – Kevin Privott 1-49; Christopher Jordan 1-11; Jemel Monger 1-8.
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or email@example.com