The quickest way to the football is right up the middle.
Rocky Mount High knew it, planned for it and Oxford Webb found it out the hard way.
The Gryphons crashed the middle of the Warriors’ offensive line Friday, disrupting the run game and putting the passing game out of sync.
Although the idea was just to make Oxford Webb one-dimensional, defensive coordinator Jermaine Jones’ gameplan actually gave head coach Jason Battle his first shutout in a 30-0 victory at Rocky Mount High School.
“I’m glad we won a football game, really,” said Battle, whose previous low was six points. “I’m glad we played hard. That’s it. I’m glad we won. I’m glad we played hard.”
As the clock ticked down and the shutout seemed imminent, Jones came down to the sideline from his usual position in the press box. He stood next to Battle, and as time ran out, he reached out with his left hand and patted him on the back.
The gesture could have easily gone the other way: Battle thanking Jones.
“Our gameplan is the same every week: Stop the run,” Battle said. “They were a big running football team. Watching them on film, they do some things that are pretty scary. ... All we want to do is stop the run and be more physical than you are.”
The scariest part of the Warriors’ offense appeared to be 235-pound running back Tobiah Lewis.
The Gryphons never allowed him to start rolling, tackling him in the backfield multiple times and holding him to just 35 yards – only 15 on his first 11 carries.
The emphasis on stopping the run carried over into every other defensive aspect. On the third defensive play, Rocky Mount picked up its first sack and its first of two recovered fumbles as Keyaad Coley snagged the ball out of mid-air.
The Gryphons (2-0) allowed just 53 yards on the ground and sacked Oxford Webb quarterback Beau Smith seven times.
“We can be the best defense in the conference to be honest with you,” said linebacker Deangelo Swift, who had an inteception Friday. “That’s how I feel. ... We have that aggression and that hunger to pitch a shutout and keep it going.”
At times, Rocky Mount’s aggression spilled over the line, leaving Battle, who lost his voice earlier in the week, discouraged by his team.
“(Friday) might have been the most penalized we’ve been since I’ve been the head coach,” said Battle, whose team was flagged eight times for 50 yards including one personal foul. “That’s the disappointing part. It was just disorganization. Those are things we can correct. ... But the effort – the effort – and the will to win was there.”
Swift saw the same issues from his defense, which was responsible for 10 points off turnovers.
At one point, Swift begged his teammates to speak with their pads not their mouths. More often than not, they did. Rocky Mount allowed Oxford Webb within the 35-yard line only four times. The Gryphons stopped them three times on fourth down.
Swift’s interception canceled a turnover by Rocky Mount when the Warriors had the ball starting at the Gryphons’ 22-yard line.
“There were certainly parts that were shaky, but we need to get past that,” Swift said.
With a stout defense behind them, the Gryphons were able to run wild against Oxford Webb (1-1).
Eight different players carried the ball for Rocky Mount, and four different players caught passes as the Gryphons surprisingly took to the air.
Quarterback J.T. Smith even caught a pair when he lined up at wide receiver.
Four different players found the end zone, beginning with Rashawn Harris’ 38-yard screen pass and Bikembe Kearney’s 81-yard catch and run. Freshman Sherrod Greene broke a 41-yard touchdown in the third quarter, followed quickly by Mallik Lewis’ 60-yard touchdown run, which allowed the Gryphons to put more pressure on the quarterback.
In the final four minutes, Rocky Mount recorded three more sacks and allowed just 37 yards on Oxford Webb’s final four drives.
“Defensively, we just have to learn that stopping people is enough,” Battle said. “... Play with our pads and not our mouths.”
Rocky Mount High 30
Oxford Webb 0
OW 0 0 0 0 – 0
RMH 10 6 14 0 – 30
RMH – Rashawn Harris 38 pass from Joshua Carter (Micah Varnell kick), 9:07
RMH – Varnell 26 field goal, 6:27
RMH – Bikembe Kearney 81 pass from J.T. Smith (kick failed), 3:46
RMH – Sherrod Greene 41 run (Varnell kick), 7:37
RMH – Mallik Lewis 60 run (Varnell kick), 4:14
11 First downs.............13
89 Passing yards...........177
142 Total offense...........373
Rushing – OW: Rakim Winstead 8-41; Tobiah Lewis 13-35; Daykwon White 1-2; Antonio Bowden 8-(-8); Beau Smith 10-(-17). RMH: Mallik Lewis 4-65; Sherrod Greene 3-45; Antorrio Jones 3-34; Rashawn Harris 3-31; Broderick Caudle 7-16; Joseph Cooper 5-10; Tyron Taylor 3-0; Joshua Carter 1-(-5).
Passing – OW: Smith 8-20-0, 89. RMH: J.T. Smith 3-4-1, 108; Carter 4-8-1, 69.
Receiving – OW: Deshay Holifield 3-34; Nykwanza Henderson 1-32; Winstead 3-12; Desean Moss 1-11. RMH: Bikembe Kearney 1-81; Harris 2-41; Caudle 2-29; Smith 2-26.
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org