Red Devils blast Wildcats on "Senior Night"

The Newton-Conover football team honored its senior class the best way it knew how on Friday — by winning impressively.

The Red Devils tallied 396 total yards, including 126 from senior running back Marquis Pope, on their way to blasting Draughn 41-21 at Gurley Stadium.

"Our seniors talked all week about how they didn't want this to be their last football game on this field," said N-C coach Brint Russell. "We knew the first step to that possibly happening is that we had to beat Draughn. Our kids played hard tonight. They played a passionate football game."

Offensively, the Red Devils (6-3, 4-1) scored on their first two possessions, including a 10-yard run from Pope and a 10-yard pass from quarterback Kevin Cline to receiver Tyrell Fleming.

The N-C defense also forced a fumble when Draughn running back Dominique Patterson was stripped on his team's second drive.

The Wildcats (4-5, 1-4) got on the board on their third try on offense, going 80 yards in eight plays. Fullback Adam Estep capped the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run to cut his team's deficit to 14-7.

Just before halftime, though, Pope scored his second touchdown of the game from two yards out to extend the Red Devil lead to 21-7.

"I felt like we did a very good job offensively and dictated what we wanted to do," Russell said. "I think we only had to punt once or twice there. Defensively, we were just on the field too long They did a good job of grinding out and getting some tough yards against us."

Receiving the ball to start the second half, Newton-Conover's first play from scrimmage in the half was a big one — a 69-yard hook and lateral touchdown from Sam Avis to Pope.

"That was a play call that coach (Ben) Williamson wanted to run this week," Russell said. "He wanted something to freshen things up. He thought things were a little stale. When you get Marquis Pope in space and he has a little glimmer of day light, he can run. That is what we did. He took off. I don't know how many yards it was, but it was a lot."

Pope said he knew what to expect before his team took the field in the third quarter.

"We only ran that play one time in practice this week," Pope said. "Before we came out at halftime, coach told me to run flat, that (Sam) was going to toss me the ball and go down the sideline and score. That's what I did."

Draughn managed to score a couple of second half touchdowns, including a five-yard score from Taeshawn Newton and a 35-yard fumble recovery by Estep.

Russell credits the scores with some changes in personnel.

"We had some key injuries and guys going out, especially in the third quarter when they had their two touchdowns," he said. "We had some new guys in, and we had to schematically change some things we were doing. Once we settled down at the towards the end of the third quarter and in the fourth quarter, we were okay."

Junior Nick Baker helped the Red Devils pull away with two second half touchdowns, including a seven-yard scoring run and a 20-yard pass from Cline.

"We came out tonight fired up," said Baker, who totaled 98 yards of offense to go along with his two scores. "We did this for our seniors."

The Red Devils' win sets up a crucial match-up this Friday against South Iredell.

Russell said he has already scouted the Vikings and expects a competitive contest next week.

"I've got three films on them," he said. "I've already been watching them. They are athletic. They have a good quarterback that can run and throw. Defensively, they bounce around in all different types of fronts. They are sound in what they do. It is just going to take a good effort from us. I think they can be beat. I don't think they are invincible. I don't think anyone is invincible. We've just got to take care of the football, be sound on special teams and find a way to slow them down. It should be a good game next week."

Baker said he and his teammates need to have focus this entire upcoming week.

"We've got to come to practice to get ready," he said. "We've got to execute and work hard. We can't have any bad practices all week Monday through Thursday."