Down its starting running back due to injury, Bandys’ Quiante Derr carried the brunt of the load for the Trojans on the ground against Newton-Conover — and then some.
The sophomore rushed 31 times for 211 yards and three scores, helping Bandys eliminate the CVAC champion Red Devils from the 2AA playoffs with a 49-24 victory at Gurley Stadium on Friday.
Derr’s performance Friday night comes after rushing for three yards on 10 carries in a contest Sept. 21 against Newton-Conover.
“I just stepped up for my boy, Devan (Davis),” Derr said. “Even though he is a senior and he hurt his toe, I had to be the one to step up for him. Coach told me I had to step up, and it was on me. I stepped up for him. I did it.”
Davis, who is Bandys' starting tailback, put the Trojans up 6-0 in the first quarter after a 29-yard touchdown run and missed extra point. However, he would leave the game on Bandys' second drive after injuring his big right toe.
The Trojans put their running game on the shoulders of the 5-foot-8, 165-pound sophomore tailback.
Derr made an immediate impact, taking his third handoff on the Trojans' second drive 36 yards for a score. He also converted on a two-point conversion run to give Bandys a 14-0 lead with 6:27 left in the first quarter.
Newton-Conover (9-4) answered back to stop Bandys' momentum.
After a big kickoff return by Nick Baker set the Red Devils up in Trojan territory, quarterback Kevin Cline connected with wide receiver Sam Avis on a 28-yard touchdown pass to make it a 14-7 game.
The Red Devils would come within a play of getting the ball back after forcing a three and out on the next Bandys drive, but a costly unsportsmanlike penalty kept the ball in the Trojans' hands.
N-C head coach Brint Russell said the penalty was huge.
"We had a kid do a 'Cam Newton/Superman pose,' and the referees called unsportsmanlike conduct," he said. "I saw a kid on the news get ejected for that. We talked to our kids about it. Sometimes, kids are kids. They make dumb decisions that cost us."
The Trojans capitalized by scoring for the third time in three drives in the first quarter when quarterback Anthony Toscano scampered 24 yards for a score.
Another Red Devil gaffe led to another Bandys' touchdown on the ensuing drive when a fumble by N-C running back Marquis Pope was scooped up by Trojan Hunter Lackey and returned 29 yards for a touchdown.
"I saw the ball pop out, and I said I was going to pick it up and score," Lackey said. "That's all I was thinking so we could score and get more points on the board so we have a chance to win."
The Red Devils stayed in the game with a 26-yard run from Cline and a 30-yard field goal by Chandler Johnson, but Derr helped distance his team in the game by adding his second touchdown run with 46 seconds left in the first half by leaping over Newton-Conover defender Telijah Gibbs from one yard out into the end zone.
Derr also contributed on defense before the half was over by intercepting Cline.
Lowman said he was proud of his team's defensive effort in Friday's ball game.
"Our defense has been strong for us all year. They really have," he said. "Even the last time we played (Newton-Conover), we didn't play bad defensively. We gave them short fields on turnovers. Newton-Conover is a really good offensive football team. To keep them off to the board as much as they did, our defense is a stand up bunch. They aren't very big, but they play hard."
Newton-Conover tried to take the opening drive of the second half for a score, but Bandys' defense forced another turnover on a fourth-down stop.
Attempting to punt after stalling on fourth down on his team's next possession, Derr showed off another element of his offensive arsenal through his quick thinking and passing skills.
After a botched snap on a punt attempt sailed over his head for the second time in Friday's game, Derr completed an 18-yard pass to Brian Spade, converting on 4th-and-3.
Derr said the play was all about acting on instinct.
"I was scared back there. I looked up and saw all of those red jerseys coming at me," he said. "I saw No. 23 (Spade) waving his hand, so I passed it to him, and he got extra yards."
Derr closed out the drive by scoring his third and final rushing touchdown of the game on another one-yard plunge to give his team a 41-17 lead with 1:14 left in the third quarter.
Derr said there was one main difference between his two rushing performances versus the Red Devils this season.
"I followed my blockers," he said. "We had good blocking. Our line had some good blocking this game. Last game, I didn't follow my blocks. Tonight, I did."
The Trojans closed out the game in the fourth quarter with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Toscano to Lackey.
Lackey, who had a game-high 188 receiving yards against N-C in mid-September, caught four passes for 59 yards in Friday's contest.
"They didn't pass it to me a lot because our run game was working, but when they did, I made sure I caught it and got as many yards as a I could so the that way I could help my team," Lackey said.
Cline scored a one-yard touchdown with 5:50 left in the contest for the game's final tally. He led the Red Devils in his final game with 107 yards of total offense (55 passing, 52 rushing) and all three of his team's touchdowns (two rushing, one passing).
Fellow N-C senior Pope recorded a team-high 83 yards on the ground.
Russell said he is honored by what his team accomplished on the field this season.
"I'm just proud of this group," he said. "We were 0-2, and everyone was writing us off. We had a coaching staff come in late. These kids didn't know what to expect, and we didn't know the kids. To roll off seven-straight wins and be in the second round of playoffs is a testament to those guys. I'm really proud of this group."
Bandys (9-4) advances to play at South Iredell (11-2) next Friday — the Trojans’ third-straight CVAC opponent this postseason.
Having already knocked off East Burke in the first round and now the Red Devils, Lowman said he has high hopes for next Friday's game in Troutman.
"We hope we get the same kind of effort," he said. "It's hard to expect that when they played as good as they did tonight and as hard as they did for four whole quarters. We've had some good halves and some bad halves against teams in the past. We are hoping we can duplicate this kind of effort at least. We feel like if we do that, we've got a chance to win against whoever we play."