BAILEY – Missing its two best offensive lineman, three defensive lineman and without an answer for Rocky Mount High running back Mason Hines, Southern Nash had every excuse to concede second place in the Big East to the Gryphons.
The Firebirds’ night was not marked by whom they were without; rather, it was notable because of a potentially season-defining win.
Southern Nash outlasted Rocky Mount, 36-29, capping a wild fourth quarter with a key fourth-down conversion and interception in the final minute to seal a win.
“It’s like nothing fazes them – they’re an amazing group of kids,” Southern Nash coach Brian Foster said. “We may not win another game this season, but they are winners.”
The Firebirds (7-2, 3-1 Big East) could not quell Hines, who ran wild all night. Hines finished with more than 300 yards from scrimmage, four rushing touchdowns and two 2-point conversions, accounting for all but one of the Gryphons’ 29 points.
Rocky Mount (7-2, 2-2) manhandled the Firebirds’ defensive line, allowing Hines plenty of space to operate.
“I know Mason will get the credit, but we had nine guys blocking and doing their job,” Rocky Mount coach Jason Battle said. “It was everyone except the quarterback blocking, and he even he threw a couple for him.”
But it was Southern Nash who made plays when it needed them.
On a fourth-and-5 at Rocky Mount’s 38 yard-line with 3:37 to play, Southern Nash quarterback Deon Lavender threw a strike to Desmon Jackson on a short hitch route. Jackson eluded his defender and burst upfield, cutting back at the 20-yard line and outrunning the defense, one of three Lavender touchdown passes.
“Honestly, it felt like it was bigger than me, bigger than football,” Jackson said. “At Southern Nash it’s about so much more than playing the game. I felt like I had to make that play.”
Rashid Campbell ran in for the 2-point conversion to give the Firebirds a 7-point edge.
On the second play of the ensuing drive, Rocky Mount quarterback J.T. Smith found Hines for a first down on a rollout to his left. Southern Nash linebacker Devin Denton screamed at his cohort, Kendall Parker, for being out of position.
When the Gryphons ran the play again with less than a minute remaining in the game, though, Denton didn’t yell at Parker. He hugged him instead.
Parker stepped in front of Smith’s pass for his second interception in as many weeks.
Four plays and a failed Rocky Mount Hail Mary later, Southern Nash was in sole possession of second place in the Big East.
“I played horrible all night, but that play made up for it” Parker said. “I give all the credit to God and our coaches. To have this night on Senior Night, man, it’s just unbelievable.”
Southern Nash 36
Rocky Mount High 29
RMH 7 6 8 8 – 29
SN 0 14 7 15 – 36
RMH – Mason Hines 65 run (Micah Varnell kick), 11:49
SN – Richard Hall 31 pass from Deon Lavender (Sergio Penaloza kick), 11:52
RMH – Hines 3 run (kick failed), 4:47
SN – Hall 20 pass from Lavender (Penaloza kick), 1:14
SN – Desmon Jackson 40 run (Penaloza kick), 7:02
RMH – Hines 24 run (Hines un), 1:35
SN – Rashid Campbell 5 run (Penaloza kick), 7:31
RMH – Hines 11 run (Hines run), 6:05
SN – Jackson 38 pass from Lavender (Campbell run), 3:30
14 First downs.................19
68 Passing yards.............89
342 Total offense..............381
Rushing – RMH: Hines 24-275; Broderick Caudle 3-13; Rashawn Harris 1-4; Ahmad Harrell 3-0; J.T. Smith 3-(-16). SN: Campbell 23-134; Jackson 8-98; Taylor Finch 7-26; Sebastian O’Neal 6-21; Lavender 3-20; Richard Hall 1-2; Team 3-(-9).
Passing – RMH: Smith 4-8-0, 68. SN: Lavender 3-4-3, 89.
Receiving – RMH: Mason Hines 2-37; Michael Hines 1-16; Darius Lee 1-15. SN: Hall 2-51; Jackson 1-38.
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or npiotrowicz