For months, Rocky Mount High waited to open its new school with a new coach in what many hoped would be new era of football for the Gryphons.
That day came Friday night, and it started just like everyone wanted.
But the first lead in the new era of the school lasted just 14 seconds, and although the Gryphons’ second lead was sustained for a few minutes longer, Rocky Mount High fell in its season opener, 37-21, against Bunn.
“We knew it was a big deal,” first-year coach Jason Battle said. “It’s a big step. ... They are going to be a part of history.”
As Rocky Mount (0-1) walked off the field, it did so with a variety of feelings.
Some heads were down, others were up but a few players knew that what they had just done could mean more than a loss.
“We lost, but we put up a good fight in the third and fourth quarter,” senior running back Mason Hines said.
Still feeding of the fumes and energy of a crowd that arrived at Gryphons Stadium fashionably late, Hines put Rocky Mount on the board first.
On a run that Hines might have only stretched into a 40-yard gain last year, he went 76 yards into the end zone on just the third play of the game.
“There’s always a play that gets you started,” Hines said.
The lead was short-lived as Bunn (1-0) scored three straight times, including on the ensuing kickoff after Hines’ first touchdown. That’s when heads started to drop on the Gryphons’ sideline.
Rocky Mount High began to look more like the team from the past three years than a team hoping to recreate it’s image.
“We can’t allow when another team has a positive play to impact us the way it did,” Battle said. “It was almost like we expected the game to be out of hand in our favor, like they weren’t a very good football team. Obviously, they are.”
Thing went from bad to worse after Bunn’s three touchdowns.
The Gryphons had a touchdown called back after a holding penalty on their final possession of the first half and failed to score.
“Everybody’s head came down, and just thought the game was over with,” receiver Michael Hines said.
All seemed lost until a familiar name in an unfamiliar place showed that Rocky Mount High might be a little different than the past years.
Junior defensive end Dante Battle, who was the MVP of the Gryphons boys’ basketball state championship team, held off his blocker with one arm and with the other intercepted the second pass of the second half.
It was the boost Rocky Mount High desperately needed.
Michael Hines caught a touchdown pass on a well-thrown post route from JT Smith just a few plays later.
After a quick three-and-out from both teams, Rocky Mount High scored again, thanks to a bad snap by Bunn as a punt turned into a safety.
The special teams woes that were the Gryphons in the first half, switched sides and continued in the second half for Bunn.
On the kickoff after the safety, Mason Hines, who finished with 120 yards on 14 carries, scored his second touchdown of the game – faking a reverse and sneaking through a barrage of blockers and would-be tacklers.
But what started out as a promising night, fell apart as the Gryphons lost the lead for the second time Friday night.
“Whatever is going to happen here, it’s not going to be immediate,” Jason Battle said. “The progress is they never gave up. I hope that’s what people see. ... Just the fight and not giving up, that’s already a step in the right direction.”
Rocky Mount High 21
B 12 7 0 18 – 37
RMH 6 0 15 0 – 21
RMH – Mason Hines 76 run (kick failed), 10:31
B – Tarik Cohen 95 kick return (kick failed), 10:17
B – Cohen 1 run (run failed), 3:59
B – J’Wan Lewis 6 run (Freeman Jones kick), 6:50
RM – Michael Hines 34 pass from JT Smith (Micah Varnell kick), 8:14
RM – Safety, 3:11
RM – Mason Hines 85 kick return (kick failed), 2:57
B – Clifton White 3 run (Johnathan Alston run), 10:30
B – Jones 48 field goal, 3:34
B – Dominic High 11 run (Jones kick), 2:04
11 First downs...................11
33 Passing yards...........72
186 Total offense.............258
Rushing – RMH: Mason Hines 14-120; Brodrick Caudle 8-45; Tyrell Williams 8-20; Rashawn Harris 1-4; Channing Green 1-0; JT Smith 5-(-2); Ahmad Harrell 1-(-3). B: Johnathan Alston 2-36; Dominic High 4-32; Karilee McLean 9-31; Tarik Cohen 7-18; Clifton White 4-18; J’Wan Lewis 6-16; Tevin Ferrell 2-9; Dillon Autrey 2-(-5).
Passing – RMH: Smith 6-10-1 72. B: Autrey 2-11-0 33.
Receiving – RMH: Michael Hines 4-66; Mason Hines 1-6; Caudle 1-5. B: Cohen 1-22; Alston 1-11.
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org