ROCKY MOUNT — Senior running back Cameron Jones reached the end zone with 25 seconds remaining on Thursday, helping Rocky Mount survive Big East 2A/3A guest Roanoke Rapids, 13-10.
The touchdown, which capped a stirring, between-the-tackles drive of some 50 yards, moved the Gryphons to 4-2 overall this season, and 3-0 in league play.
It also represented a bitter pill for the Yellow Jackets, who held a 10-7 lead with 4:15 remaining.
“I’m proud of our effort, proud of hanging in there with a really good 3A program,” Roanoke Rapids head coach Chris Lyons said when asked for a global appraisal of the contest. “But sooner or later, we’ve gotta cross that line, we’ve gotta get over that hill — and that hill is winning the ball game.”
A bitter, distasteful pill, indeed.
Ebb and flow
Trailing 7-3 to begin the final stanza, the Jackets regained control of matters on a 3-yard touchdown run by Jamari Edwards — a score set up by John Temple and speedster Matthew MacNichol, who connected on an artful, up-the-boundary dime that provided a slice of first-and-goal real estate.
The subsequent advantage, however — expanded to three points after a Doug Merritt PAT — would soon evaporate.
Onside kick musings
Its lead flickering between secure and tenuous, RRHS then attempted an onside kick — which, had it recovered, would have surely closed the proceedings.
“I noticed it in the first quarter — there was a huge, gaping hole right in the middle of their front line, on their kickoff return,” Lyons said of the decision to utilize crunch-time surprise. “My thinking was, if we can get the ball back and put this thing away, let’s do it.”
Sadly, it wasn’t to be.
“I don’t regret it. I do not regret it,” Lyons said of the win-or-go-home dare. “We were so close to getting that. I thought it was a great plan.”
Geary sidelined for now
Notable in absence on Thursday was Yellow Jacket running back Austin Geary, who did not suit up after suffering an ankle injury last week versus Northern Nash.
As of this writing, No. 12’s return is a matter of question, but one Lyons is treating with optimism above all else.
“He goes back (for evaluation) next week, next Monday, and we’ll go from there,” the coach said. “He’s one of our playmakers, obviously, on both sides of the ball … hopefully, just each and every day he’s getting a little bit better, a little bit better.”
Because gridiron time, of course — especially that which eyes the postseason — waits for no one.
Who’s got next …?
Rocky Mount returns to action next week as the host of Southern Nash, while the Jackets (4-3, 0-3 Big East) travel to old acquaintance Louisburg.
Rocky Mount 13,
RR — Doug Merritt 30 FG, 4:09
RM — Elijah Battle 8 run (Christian Buck PAT), 4:12
RR — Jamari Edwards 3 run (Doug Merritt PAT), 4:15
RM — Cameron Jones 1 run (PAT no good), :25