By Mike London
LANDIS — South Rowan’s 2019 soccer season included a number of ugly nights, however the lowest valley might have been the discouraging 57-7 beating the Raiders took from Thomasville at Cushwa Stadium.
Thomasville is normally simply too quick, too fast, too sturdy, too every little thing for the Raiders to take care of. That’s why South owns one win over the Bulldogs within the historical past of the soccer program.
However Friday’s journey at Donnell Stadium was completely different. Thomasville is as quick as ever, however South had a shot in a recreation fought fiercely in good March climate.
The Raiders competed with the Bulldogs — after which some.
South first cousins Nathan Chrismon and Jackson Deal are actually fast, and their teammates matched their toughness. Thomasville gained it 36-24, but it surely was nonetheless up within the air within the last minutes.
South nonetheless had an opportunity, down six, till Thomasville’s hard-charging again Jabrii Carolina (13 carries, 97 yards) moved the first-down chains with 1:25 remaining. Then Carolina broke a scoring run for the ultimate margin.
“Heck of a soccer recreation,” Thomasville head coach Kevin Gillespie stated. “South Rowan performed actually exhausting and their quarterback (Chrismon) is a participant. He can transfer and he can sling it. We made a ton of younger errors, however our guys did a terrific job of combating and overcoming them. We stored our composure and due to that, we acquired out of right here with a win.”
South’s defensive plan was to cease Thomasville (1-1, 1-1) from ramming the ball down their throats, and the Raiders stood firmly in opposition to the bottom recreation. Luke Hiskey, Drew Watkins, Ward Bond. A variety of guys with exhausting noses caught them into each collision and each pileup.
South (1-2, 1-1) made the Bulldogs flip to the aerial recreation, however Thomasville QB Landon Johnson, who has receivers who by no means appear to drop something, responded with a monster recreation. Johnson accomplished 20 passes for 302 yards and accounted for 4 touchdowns.
It was nonetheless Zero-Zero after a primary quarter by which South’s protection made three stops.
Thomasville muffed a punt, and Hiskey recovered it within the purple zone, however Alex Fike was extensive left with a field-goal strive from 28 yards.
The quarter ended with Thomasville making an attempt to punt. When the punter knelt to corral a low snap, his knee touched the grass, and South had one other alternative. This time the Raiders scored, with Chrismon faking, holding and whirling across the left facet for a 20-yard rating. Fike’s PAT made it 7-Zero.
The Bulldogs retaliated with a collection of completions for a drive. Johnson’s Four-yard TD run sliced South’s result in 7-6, however a 2-point conversion move failed.
Then South took a 14-6 lead. One other good faux, a crunching block on a linebacker by fullback Darrion Cuthbertson, and Deal got here bursting via the road on an iso play for a 52-yard landing.
“Third time in a row we’d run that play, and Nathan informed me precisely the place the working lane was going to be,” Deal stated. “Our offensive linemen did a terrific job. This time I opened my eyes and noticed the outlet and I hit it. I might hear a man getting shut proper behind me, however I remembered my sophomore yr once I had an opportunity to attain and a Thomasville man caught me from behind. Nobody was catching me this time.”
As was the case all evening, at any time when South scored, Thomasville responded. Even after a sack by Aquiles Bernal for an enormous loss (“It’s second and a social distance,” roared South’s PA man), the Bulldogs nonetheless rolled to attain and tacked on the 2-point conversion for 14-all.
It was nonetheless deadlocked at 14 when South acquired the ball again with a bit of over a minute left within the half. South head coach Daniel Yow despatched a robust message that it was time for a change. South didn’t attempt to kill the clock. South was aggressive, and Chrismon linked on three straight massive move performs. The most important was a terrific catch ultimately zone for a 31-yard landing by JD James with simply 25 seconds left within the half.
“We have to take that step the place we present we are able to play with, and even beat, a number of the upper-tier groups on this league,” Yow stated. “On the finish of the half, I used to be simply hoping we might get into field-goal vary, however we made nice throws and nice catches.”
Sadly for the Raiders, 25 seconds was nonetheless time for Thomasville to strike again. Johnson noticed Lymeake Washington working free to the submit, and the Bulldogs struck gold within the dying breaths of the half. They tacked on one other 2-point conversion and grabbed a 22-21 lead because the groups headed to the break.
“That was robust,” Yow stated. “A defensive breakdown and Thomasville capitalized. They’ve acquired athletes.”
South went from excessive elation to excessive deflation in a matter of seconds.
“That was a giant swing proper earlier than the half,” Deal stated. “However we dealt with it. That didn’t beat us. We nonetheless acquired the lead once more.”
That was true sufficient. The defensive untis took over once more within the third quarter.
Chrismon hit on a number of passes late within the third quarter to get the Raiders transferring, and Fike’s subject purpose from the 31 was correct. South led 24-22.
That lead lasted a handful of seconds.
Johnson tossed a swing move to Washington ( 9 catches, 190 yards) and he motored 77 yards to place the Bulldogs in entrance. After the Bulldogs’ third 2-point conversion of the night, it was 30-24.
One other Johnson-to-Washington move play hurried the Bulldogs to the South 2, first and purpose, however this time the Raiders stopped them when Jacob Ritchie broke up a fourth-down move.
South acquired the ball again with 4 minutes left, down six, however had 95 yards to go. The Raiders might solely advance the ball to the 9. Deal punted on fourth-and-6 because the clock moved below three minutes.
Then Thomasville moved the chains twice to seal victory, and Carolina broke his scoring run for 36-24.
South performed it proper right down to the top, with Chrismon hitting Deal on a 42-yard move play within the fading seconds. However then it was over.
It was a great win for Thomasville and for Gillespie, who didn’t take the reins till February.
“We have been shut down for some time, didn’t get to play that first week of the season after which had three practices earlier than we performed North Davidson (a 24-6 loss),” Gillespie stated. “We realized so much from that recreation, and we had a few of our youngsters in higher positions tonight than we did in our first recreation. We’re nonetheless figuring all of it out, and it’s a really quick season.”
It was a defeat, however Yow managed to be upbeat.
“I feel we turned a nook,” he stated. “We made a number of the most mature performs we’ve made since I’ve been right here. Dangerous issues occurred, however we by no means hung our heads. We didn’t level fingers. We stored taking part in.”
Deal agreed with that evaluation.
“This was a terrific soccer recreation with a crew that was one of many high 4 in our league final yr,” Deal stated. “I heard some folks say that’s the very best they’ve seen South play in years, and I agree with that. It’s a loss, but it surely’s nonetheless a step ahead. An enormous step ahead.”