Red Devils force 3 fumbles, topple Trojans 35-14

After giving up turnovers and creating short fields last week in a loss to rival Maiden, karma favored Newton-Conover on the football field Friday against Bandys.

The Red Devils (3-3, 1-1) forced three fumbles, surging ahead of the Trojans early to eventually come away with a 35-14 win at Gurley Stadium.

“We created a few turnovers, and the ball bounced our way,” said N-C coach Brint Russell. “The defense was swarming to the football.”

Bandys coach Randy Lowman was disappointed in his team’s performance.

“We gave them three (turnovers) in the first quarter,” he said. “Snaps over our head, too. We haven’t done that all year. This is the kind of team you can’t do that against.”

The two teams were scoreless in the first quarter, but the action was fast and furious in the second stanza.

The Red Devils got on the board seven seconds into the second quarter on a one-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Kevin Cline.

Two plays later, Bandys answered on an 84-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Anthony Toscano to wide receiver Hunter Lackey.

Despite giving up the long pass play, Newton-Conover answered the score with a 79-yard drive capped by a 34-yard touchdown pass from Cline to Sam Avis.

Russell said the score was crucial in continuing to keep his team's momentum.

"It was a big answer," he said. "Without that score, we are in the locker room up 21-7. We actually had the play called to the other side. We had trips left. Sam was covered one on one. That play is meant to go to the No. 2 receiver on the other side. What they did was over-rotate their safeties. That left a one-on-one and the kid that was covering Sam lined up to the inside of him. Sam had the outside. Kevin recognized that, looked out, checked with Sam, Sam gave the check back and he was gone. They both made a good play."

Bandys started to lose control of the game on its next possession by fumbling.

Of Newton-Conover's six first-half possessions, five started in Bandys territory. Three of those possessions were the result of a trio of fumbles by Bandys.

"Tonight, we made (turnovers) and they didn't," Lowman said. "Last week, they made the ones that gave Maiden the edge. We came back and played with something in the second half, but we'd already dug a pretty big hole."

N-C defenders Jarren Pitts, Sam England and Avis came up with the critical turnovers, helping set their team's offense up in key position.

The Red Devils scored on three-straight possessions to close the first half, including two touchdown runs of one and two yards by Nick Baker.

Bandys tried to claw back in the second half, scoring on its second drive of the third quarter on a 10-yard run by Toscano.

The biggest issue for the Trojans came in the passing game, where several balls were either overthrown and dropped.

"Hunter (Lackey) hadn't dropped a ball all year," Lowman said. "He has made catches he should have made. Tonight, we couldn't make gimmes. We've got a lot of work to do. We've got to bounce back and play again next week."

The Red Devils continued to eat up clock in the second half and eventually iced the game late with a 60-yard scoring run by Tyrell Fleming with 1:46 left in the contest.

Both teams continue conference play next week at home.

Newton-Conover hosts East Burke (4-2, 2-0), while Bandys (4-2, 1-1) welcomes West Caldwell (0-6, 0-2).

Lowman said he expects his squad to bounce back just like the Red Devils did in one week's time.

"We'll do what we always do," he said. "We've lost before. We won't panic or give up. We'll come back. I expect us to play a great football game next week, just like (Newton-Conover) did. Last week, I think they could have won the football game (against Maiden) had it not been for the bad snaps and the blunders they had. They had three turnovers that cost them three touchdowns and ended up getting beat. Tonight, we just reversed roles. We did it. They didn't. They played well."

Russell said the rivalry victory against Bandys helps get his team refocused toward its goal of being the final football champions of the Catawba Valley 2A in 2012.

"One of our goals is to be conference champions," he said. "In order for that to happen, we have to win the rest of our games and hope something happens down the road. The goal right now is to play South Iredell for a chance to win a conference championship. First, we have to take care of East Burke. We have to take care of Draughn. We have to take care of Bunker Hill before them."