Raiders overcome early turnovers to breeze past Cyclones

Published 6:07 pm Monday, October 26, 2015

Running back Roy Hill did not score in Southampton Academy’s win over the Community Christian, but had several long runs to spark the Raiders’ offense in the second quarter.  -- Murray Thompson | Tidewater News

Running back Roy Hill did not score in Southampton Academy’s win over the Community Christian, but had several long runs to spark the Raiders’ offense in the second quarter. — Murray Thompson | Tidewater News

The Southampton Academy Raiders overcame three first-quarter turnovers to beat the Community Christian Cyclones on Friday evening, 48-20. The Raiders spotted the Cyclones a 12-point lead, but held the visiting team from North Carolina from scoring again until the final minute of the contest to improve to 8-1 on the season.

“They came out and kind of kicked us in the teeth,” Southampton Academy head coach Dale Marks said. “I was worried, but I knew we would come back. We’re resilient.”

Despite kicking off, Community Christian jumped out to an early lead when Southampton Academy quarterback Andrew Lowe fumbled his first rushing attempt of the game. The Cyclones needed only two plays, aided by a horse collar penalty, to punch it in and take a 6-0 lead, as running back Avery Windstead went two yards over the left tackle for the score.

“You know how high school kids are. They look at scores and compare [our scores to theirs],” Marks said. “Rocky Mount beat these guys badly, and we beat Rocky Mount. As much as we tell them, ‘These guys are good,’ they kind of think we’re just going to show up in our jerseys, shoulder pads and helmet and win the ball game.”

The Raiders nearly tied the game on the return, as Tyler Dodson raced up the home sideline to midfield with only one player to beat before he was pushed out of bounds. Three-consecutive rushes by running back Roy Hill moved the ball into Community Christian territory, but the drive stalled when Lowe overthrew receiver Brooks Holland on third and fourth down to turn the ball over on downs.

Community Christian quickly went up by two scores, as quarterback Grant Webb found Windstead for a 68-yard touchdown. The halfback snuck out of the backfield to find himself wide open in the flat, and rumbled down the sideline to put the Cyclones up 12-0.

Feeling pressure to score, Marks elected to go for it on fourth down in the redzone on Southampton Academy’s subsequent drive. Lowe’s pass sailed over Holland’s head and was picked off at the 18-yard-line.

With Community Christian driving once again, the head coach pleaded with his defense to dig deep and come up with a stop — and they quickly obliged. Two-consecutive sacks by Jyrell Fuller and Roy Hill pushed the Cyclones into a 3rd-and-28 passing situation, and Dodson picked off Webb’s errant fourth-down pass.

“We went from a three-man front to a four-man front,” Marks said. “That was an adjustment that coach [Cass] Camp made for us, and it turned out to be a good adjustment for us.”

The teams exchanged possession before Southampton Academy would complete its first pass of the game, and it was quite the momentum changer. Holland, lined up to the right, ran a slant behind the linebacker and Lowe found him wide open for a 46-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 4.

After Lowe picked off a Webb pass, he led the Raiders on a six-play, 68-yard drive to take the lead. Consecutive runs by Hill moved Southampton Academy across midfield, and then Lowe found Holland running across the middle on the same scoring play from earlier for a 38-yard touchdown to go up 16-12.

“We had been going right, right, right, so we just snuck him out, and he made a good run down the side and ended up scoring,” Marks said.

The Raiders would not relinquish the lead thereafter, as they capped off the first half with another touchdown — this time an 11-yard run by tailback Jalen Myrick — to head into intermission ahead 24-12.

Coming out of the locker room, the Raiders flipped the script from the first quarter, as safety Sam Rose made a spectacular one-handed interception. Two plays later, Lowe kept the zone-read option and rushed 32 yards for the score to eclipse 100 yards on the ground.

“Andrew has been big for us all year, as have a lot of players,” Marks said. “He had some big shoes to fill stepping in behind [departed quarterback] Matt Rose. I knew from a mental standpoint, he could handle it. He’s a very cerebral player, and it doesn’t matter what game he’s playing — football, basketball or baseball — he knows the game well. He runs the offense. He knows what everybody does out there. The only question was, ‘Could his physical skills step in and replace Matt?’ Obviously, he’s done a wonderful job for us this year running and throwing the ball.”

Lowe and Myrick added touchdown runs of 31 and 32 yards in the fourth quarter, respectively, before Marks called upon his second-string players to finish the game.

Southampton Academy wraps up the regular season with a huge showdown with Arendel Parrott Academy in Kinston, North Carolina, next week. The Patriots defeated the Raiders twice last season, including in the first round of the North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association playoffs.

“I don’t know about the guys, but I’ve had this game circled,” Marks said. “They’re not the team they were last year, although, they’re still a nice team. They lost to St. David’s, as well. That’s their only loss and that’s our only loss. It doesn’t mean anything from a playoff standpoint, but it’s just for pride and bragging rights. They’re hard hitters. They don’t like to lose.”