Nash clubs move into 3rd round

By Charles Alston, Graphic Correspondent

ROCKY MOUNT -- Nash Central is beginning to really enjoy this home-field advantage stuff in the playoffs.

Playing in their second straight postseason contest in the Dawg Pound, the third-seeded Bulldogs began stretching their muscles offensively and defensively last Friday night as they blew away No. 6 seed Wilson Hunt 53-20 in their second-round NCHSAA 3-AA football playoff matchup.

The win will keep the Bulldogs (9-4) at home for a third straight week as they will entertain Greensboro Dudley Friday in the East semifinals. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

Dudley (10-3), seeded seventh, upset No. 2 seed Northeast Guilford 18-13 last Friday. It marks the second time in the program’s five-year history that the Bulldogs are playing on Thanksgiving weekend, but the first time they’re getting to compete at home.

A little vengeance might have been a motivator for the Bulldogs Friday. After all, Hunt beat them 21-7 in Wilson earlier in the season.

“We just feel like we’re a better football team right now than we were then,’’ said NC head coach Kenneth Grantham. “I was surprised at how quickly we started in this game.

“I think our kids wanted to prove that we were better now. They had a little chip on their shoulders.’’

For the second straight week, the Bulldogs’ offense was in full force. Their triple-option attack piled up 492 yards, with 411 of it coming via the ground.

Hunt, which depends almost solely on the arm of senior quarterback David Hesmer, did so Friday. He was 24 for 46 for 371 yards and two touchdowns. It was most passing yards ever allowed by a Nash Central team.

But Nash Central’s secondary had a record night at his expense. It picked off seven of his passes and returned two of them for second-half touchdowns. Mark Brown ran one back 53 yards early in the third period and Michael Speight motored 80 yards with one with a little less than four minutes left in the game.

“To have seven interceptions, that blows my mind,’’ Grantham said. “Our kids really played well.’’

Surrounding those defensive scores, the Bulldogs’ rushing attack took charge. Senior quarterback Cameron Holloway ran for four touchdowns (62, 5, 44, 7) and threw another to Danny Allen from 51 yards out. Holloway finished the night with 17 carries for 241 yards, and threw for 81 more.

He also had help from senior fullback Eric Moore, who came up with 102 yards on 16 attempts. Nash Central had a 28-7 lead at the half.

The numbers head coach Grantham didn’t enjoy seeing mount in the marathon game (over three hours long) were those in the penalty and turnover categories. NCHS was flagged 12 times for 105 yards, and lost three fumbles -- the type of numbers that in games past the Bulldogs would have surely lost.

Now comes Dudley, which has impressed Grantham during film study. Grantham encourages all NC fans to be in attendance Friday to ensure a large crowd.

“Dudley is very athletic,’’ Grantham said. “It seems like every one of their guys is about 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds.’’

RMHS: When advancing in the playoffs, the yards and points are supposed to be a little harder to come by.

That hasn’t been the case so far for the Rocky Mount Gryphons.

They piled up 404 yards rushing en route to yet another playoff shutout -- a 52-0 NCHSAA 3-A second-round pounding of No. 11 seed South Granville last Friday.

No. 3 seed Rocky Mount (13-0), for the fourth straight year, will be practicing on Thanksgiving Day to get ready for a third-round opponent. And this season it will be a familiar one.

Southern Wayne, thanks to a 28-19 victory over Southern Lee last Friday, will travel to Rocky Mount Friday for a rematch with the Gryphons. The seventh-seeded Saints (9-4) suffered a 49-7 pasting to RMHS on Sept. 21 in Dudley. That win was also Coach B.W. Holt’s 300th career victory.

While the Gryphons’ offense has been in high gear, so has their defense. The Vikings managed just four first downs and 66 total yards the entire evening. South Granville’s deepest penetration into Gryphon territory was to their 30-yard line.

Rocky Mount is dangerous offensively, but when its defense and special teams are scoring, opponents don’t have much hope. Such was the case Friday when the Gryphons got a 71-yard interception return from senior Jacobi Jenkins for a touchdown and junior Brian Goodwin rambled 65 yards with a punt for a score.

Sophomore back Marquavis Alston led all rushers with 122 yards on 11 carries and he scored three times.

Rocky Mount High School is just 147 yards away from breaking the school’s team record for rushing in a season (3,998) that was set last year.