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SMITHFIELD — Before taking the field Friday night against Spring Creek, Smithfield-Selma sophomore running back Brandon Perry put in his headphones and shuffled through a series of throwback rap songs for his pregame music.
“On gamedays, I listen to the old school,” Perry explained after an electric night where he ran for a pair of TDs “I listen to Tupac, Biggie Smalls, all that.”
Whether the music had any influence or not, Perry led an offense that helped the Spartans turn back time to another era in an abbreviated 34-0 victory, their first win in a season-opener since 2007. That year, Perry was just two years old.
The game was halted and called at halftime following a lengthy lightning delay.
“I’m just glad we won because we haven’t won our first game in a while throughout these years,” Perry said. “I’m really happy that we won.”
Through just one game, the Spartans have already won as many games as they did in each of the first two seasons under head coach Mike Parrish in 2017-18. The two years before that, the program went the whole season without a win.
Friday, in the words of Parrish, was all about getting “the monkey off our back early” and moving forward from there.
“We were finally on the other side of the thing,” Parrish said. “Usually, we’re the ones getting bullied and punished...”
From kickoff, the outcome was never in doubt. Junior Omarion Garrett received the kick and promptly returned it all the way down the home sideline for a 72-yard score. Shortly after, the extra point was missed, but SSS owned a 6-0 lead.
“The offense was doing great,” quarterback Clevonte Watson said. “It started out with the kick return.”
After the electric start, the Spartan defense forced the Gators into a quick turnover on downs, then marched right down the short field for another score. Perry capped off the offense’s first drive with his first touchdown, a 17-yard scamper, but it was far from his team’s last.
While the offense moved the ball for 220 yards of offense, mostly working with a short field, the SSS defense gave up just one first down all night, which came on an 11-yard gain. Spring Creek was held to minus-one yard of total offense overall before the point of stoppage.
The defense was led by Brandon Howell Jr., who led the team with seven tackles and forced a fumble. The Spartans also were boosted by a sack from Julian Brockington and Quentin Judkins each.
Before the first quarter ended, Smithfield-Selma scored once more with Watson connecting with junior wide receiver Devon Roesch for a 15-yard touchdown in the front corner of the endzone.
In the second quarter, the Spartans were denied points for the only time after stalling out around midfield.
When the defense forced two straight fumbles from the Gators, a 1-A independent program for football, the offense capitalized on it. Garrett ran the ball for his second touchdown of the night, a 20-yard score and Perry quickly matching him with his own.
Perry juked and fought his way through defenders for 48 yards before clearing through the traffic and completing his run.
“When I first got the ball, I low key knew I was going to get there,” Perry said. “I really thought it was going to take time, but I trusted in (his teammates) that I was going to get there, that I was going to get into the endzone, and I got there.”
Overall, Perry buoyed the offense with 118 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. Watson rushed five times for 47 yards, while Garrett added three carries for 25 yards, an offensive touchdown and a kick return.
With the win, Parrish will have to follow through on a promise he made to the team if they “made history” and won the game. The team will be back on campus the next night with Parrish rolling out the grill to cook everyone steak as they all breathe a sigh of relief.
With a win under their belt and beef in their belly, the Spartans hope next week they can just worry about winning another one and leaving behind the past.
“I’m glad everybody can stop talking about how SSS sucks,” Watson said. “If we would have played the second half, we would have ran it up even more.”
NJ blanked by Red Springs
KENLY — Opening the season against Red Springs, the first win of the Michael Barnett era did not come Friday night for the North Johnston football team.
The Red Devils of the 1-A/2-A Three Rivers Conference scored 34 points before halftime and added one more touchdown after the break to shut out the Panthers in Kenly.
“Red Springs is a good team,” Barnett said. “They’re strong, they’re fast, they’ll make it to the third round of the state playoffs, at least.”
In its first game working with the triple option, Barnett estimated his offense to have moved the ball less than 50 yards on the night, managing just two first downs.
Barnett attributed struggles on the offensive end to simple mistakes, like one player not doing their job, or a blown block busting up the play.
North Johnston stopped Red Springs a couple times and forced one fumble out of the high-powered offense, but struggled overall to contain the Red Devils, particularly on the ground. While two touchdowns came through the air, the bulk of the scoring, four touchdowns, came in the running game.
“We had them schemed up, they just executed, they downblocked well,” Barnett said. “They did exactly what we thought they’d do, and they just beat us at the line of scrimmage.”
The Panthers will travel to Goldsboro next week to take on Rosewood of the 1-A Carolina Conference.
Pirates see room for improvement after win over Millbrook
RALEIGH — With a 20-7 win under its belt, Corinth Holders is looking ahead to preparing for 3-A Greater Neuse River Conference opponent West Johnston next week and improving on a solid performance from a young team.
“We’re still growing,” head coach Adam Khavari said. “This is the first time in five years Corinth has started out 1-0.”
The Pirates scored three touchdowns on Friday night, the first being on a quarterback sneak by Matt Cozart on the goal line, followed by a long run by Cambron Whitaker and a deep ball thrown by Cozart that connected with Marcus Bland Jr.
Khavari thought his team could have scored several other times, but could not execute.
“Defensively, they gave us some stuff in the passing game,” Khavari said. “We struggled up front blocking them.”
As a team, the Pirates had difficulty handling the Wildcats’ defensive ends, and slowing down “explosive” running back Jaden Patterson, who knotted the only score of the night for the home team.
On defense, Langston Robinson caught one interception in the first half and Ayden Pearce brought down another late in the game with the Wildcats threatening.
Princeton pummels Pamlico County
BAYBORO — With a 44-16 win, Princeton had little trouble scoring on Pamlico County, the 1-A Coastal Plains Conference power that advanced all the way to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association championship game in 2018.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Bulldogs put up 24 points in the second quarter, starting with a 7-yard rushing touchdown and two-point conversion by Harley Bartholomew that came after Bear Earp of the Princeton defense forced a fumble deep in Pamlico County’s territory.
Shortly after, the Hurricanes responded with a 65-yard rushing touchdown and subsequent two-point conversion to tie the score at 8.
Although initially fumbling the ball to Pamlico County, Jaydon Brooks scored on a 1-yard rush and completed the two-point conversion, and Nate Starling scored another 16-yard touchdown to take a healthy 28-6 lead at the break.
In the third quarter, Pamlico County did not score, while Brooks scored once again on a 1-yard rush.
In the final quarter, Princeton scored twice, while Pamlico County scored once more on a long 65-yard rushing touchdown — though the initial flurry of offense earlier had already decided the outcome.
Next week, Princeton will welcome in Stem Granville Central.