Cline’s 298 yards lifts Red Devils, Russell to first win

Quarterback Kevin Cline made sure Newton-Conover’s third game was its charm.

The senior signal-caller combined for 298 yards and four touchdowns, helping the Red Devils win their first game of the season, 50-3, at St. Stephens on Friday night in Hickory.

“We practiced (passing) all week and ran it in warm-ups,” Cline said. “We got the ball to our athletes and let them run.”

The Red Devils (1-2) struck immediately after forcing the Indians to go three and out in their first possession.

On Newton-Conover's first play from scrimmage, Cline found running back Marquis Pope, who blew past defenders on his way to a 52-yard scoring strike to put the Red Devils up 7-0.

The Indians (0-3) responded with a 12-play drive that ended with a Tommy Vo 26-yard field goal to cut the deficit to four.

After starting its drive with a illegal shift penalty that negated another long play by Pope, Newton-Conover had success with the pass again — this time Cline found wideout Nick Baker for an 86-yard scoring pass to make it 14-3 N-C after one quarter.

Baker and the Red Devils continued their offensive onslaught to start the second quarter. Driving from its own 33-yard line, the Newton-Conover offense scored for the third time in four drives when Baker scampered 12 yards for a touchdown.

Just before halftime, Cline added his third and final touchdown pass — a 16-yard strike to wide receiver Josh Ramseur — making it a 28-3 lead at the break.

The Red Devils netted 303 yards in the half, including 170 passing and 133 rushing.

"Kevin Cline is a warrior," said N-C coach Brint Russell. "The last couple of weeks, we've done an okay job of running the offense, but we haven't had enough in terms of being balanced and being able to throw the football. Coach (Ben) Williamson, our offensive coordinator, came up this week and said we had to throw the ball more. He came up with some great plays to give us an opportunity to exploit some of the things (St. Stephens) was doing in their secondary. (Ben) wanted to be aggressive and go right at them."

While Newton-Conover impressed on offense, St. Stephens struggled with the football, mustering 41 yards passing and no yards rushing on 11 carries.

"I give credit to those guys," said Indians coach Chris Bunting. "They did a good job of mixing it up on defense and really attacking up front."

Cline added his fourth and final touchdown of the game on Newton-Conover's first possession of the second half.

Starting at their own 30, the Red Devils marched 70 yards in seven plays, capped by Cline's 14-yard rush for a score.

Cline finished the game with 12 rushes for 117 yards and a rushing touchdown. He also completed 8-of-15 passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns through the air.

“(Kevin) is a fullback that can throw a football,” Russell said. “He is just like a bowling ball. He keeps going, runs hard, keeps his head up and is a great leader and everything you want as a triple option quarterback. I’m real proud of his effort tonight.”

The Red Devils churned the clock in the second half, rushing 19 times for 181 yards, including seven rushes for 71 yards by fullback Sam England, who ran for a 21-yard fourth quarter touchdown.

All aspects of the game shined for the Red Devils in the second half, including a 46-yard field goal by Chandler Johnson on special teams and a four-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by Jordan Martin as the final buzzer sounded.

Newton-Conover outgained St. Stephens offensively in the game, 495-68, including a 314-9 margin on the ground.

"They did a couple of things with our defensive line to make it tough for our blocking schemes," Bunting said. "We made some adjustments and tried to do some things. Unfortunately, we were doing some things later on after we had put ourselves in a hole. We didn't do the things we needed to do early. We got behind early because we didn't take care of our job defensively. It put our offense in a bind."

Russell said picking up his first win at Newton-Conover is huge for everyone involved in his program.

"This community is accustomed to winning," he said. "There is a winning tradition here. This is big for this community. It's big for our school. It's big for our fans. It's just a good win."

Cline said the Red Devils can focus more clearly on the rest of their season now that they have a win under their belt.

“We knew we could win, but we weren’t sure if we were going to get it," he said. "Just to finally get that first win this season, I think it is going to relieve a lot of stress on a lot of people. We are just going to go out there and do what we can do.”

The Red Devils try to win their second game when host East Surry (1-2) in week four, while St. Stephens goes for its first win when it welcomes Maiden (1-2).