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Blevins’ big night paces Princeton

Senior running back scores 5 touchdowns in victory

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PRINCETON — If you want to see Princeton High running back Seth Blevins smile, ask him about “seven.”

“I love seven,” Blevins said as a grin widened on his face so big the smeared eye black on his cheeks scrunched up. “Our team loves it. This is what our whole team has been working on this whole week. It was seven, seven, seven, seven, seven the whole time.”

The play the Bulldogs named after the lucky number is a counter trap, used sparingly, but enjoyed by both pulling linemen and running backs alike. And on Thursday night in a 62-7 rout of East Carteret in the first round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 1-AA playoffs, it gave Blevins a chance to shine.

“They just couldn’t catch me, that’s all I’ll say,” Blevins explained after a five rushing touchdown night when he ran for 231 yards on eight carries.

On four of those touchdowns, the gaping hole in the middle of the line opened so much that Blevins reached the end zone without being touched. Each time the play was called, Blevins made it a point to give a message to his linemen before breaking the huddle.

“Just take a deep breath,” Blevins recalled saying. “Take a big breath and give me a big hole. I say, ‘Just give me a lane and I’ve got you. I’ll do the rest of the work.’”

The encouragement worked out for him as the holes opened as large as they had all season for him.

Blevins first score came on Princeton’s first drive of the game. “Seven” went left on the hash mark all the way for the score with 6:56 in the first quarter. Then on the second drive, it was called right and ended in the same result, giving the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead early.

From there, the Mariners seemed to have no answer for the counter play. Blevins third rush was again “seven” to the right and it went 42 yards for a touchdown — again untouched. With the ball on the 27 yard line, it took just one play for Blevins to put his team up 35-7, outrunning the lone defender with a chance to scamper into the end zone for a 73-yard run.

When he came off the field with 1:51 until halftime, Deviyeh Simmons pulled aside the undersized 5-foot-8 back and called him a “a scoring hog,” imploring him to share the wealth.

Both players laughed and shook hands, then Simmons asked that his teammate score one more to finish with the same number of touchdowns as his jersey number. He recognized this wasn’t just a solid start, this was a special night for his teammate.

“He’s one of the best wings we’ve ever had,” Simmons said after the game, admitting there was no jealousy for his classmate and teammate. “He’s really good.”

Simmons later continued: “You saw what he did, five touchdowns and five on his jersey.”

Right out of halftime, Blevins capped off his night with one final score, a 28-yard touchdown that required some broken tackles, for once. Shortly after, Simmons rumbled to the end zone on his own to bring the score to 49-7 and start the rolling clock. Both players got what they’d talked about.

After the game, teammates and coaches gave voice to what seemed to be a long time coming for Blevins — that the senior back had earned the recognition he received.

“Seth is a good kid,” freshman offensive tackle Jake Crocker said. “He’ll come out to practice and work hard, lead the team and I think he deserved it today.”

Blevins had never scored so many times in a game. His previous high on the season was against Sampson Union, when he had three. Head coach Travis Gaster said the career night couldn’t have come at a better time.

“It’s awesome out of him — it’s a good reward for him,” Gaster said. “He’s an extremely hard worker, an undersized kid, but an overachiever. That kind of defines a lot of our young men are. It’s good to see him be successful. He definitely deserves it.”

A career night for the back, though, proved bigger than just an individual honor. Princeton rolled into the postseason as the No. 5 seed in the East Region of the playoffs, but had struggled in recent years in first-round matchups.

Before Thursday night, the Bulldogs hadn’t advanced out of the opening round since 2016, when Blevins was a freshman. His hard work ensured he — and his other senior teammates — would not finish out their high school careers without a deeper postseason run.

“I really wanted this,” Blevins said. “This whole week we practiced so hard because we wanted to go to the second round. We always lose in the first round and I’m just really excited to play whoever we have next.”

Princeton will travel to North Rowan on Friday for the second round.