Bull­dogs Grind Way To 6-0

John­son’s blocked punt, Way­man’s re­cov­ery help North Caro­line keep up un­de­feated run

Times-Record - - SPORTS - By WILLIAM HAUFE bhaufe@star­dem.com

RIDGELY — C.J. John­son bolted off the right edge, right to­ward Eas­ton High punter Alex Stecher-Scott.

A year ago John­son made this look like an art, block­ing five punts for North Caro­line High’s un­beaten ju­nior var­sity foot­ball team. Now, deep into this sea­son’s sixth game, the ju­nior de­fen­sive end was about to block his first for the Bull­dogs’ un­beaten var­sity.

Stecher-Scott’s right­footed kick ap­peared to go off the face mask of the air­borne John­son, who crash­landed but got to his feet in time to see team­mate Ken­dron Way­man lay­ing on the ball in the end zone for a touch­down Fri­day night that helped North Caro­line to a 14-3 vic­tory over stub­born Eas­ton be­fore a nearly packed house.

“It’s 7-3,” North Caro­line head coach James McCormick said of his team’s lead less than 30 sec­onds into the fourth quar­ter. “It’s a tight game. We’re not fin­ish­ing drives. We’re not stick­ing it in the end zone and get­ting that ex­tra score or two that’s go­ing to give us that cush­ion. And that’s what C.J. does. This was his first one he got this year. But it came at a nice time.”

It came with North Caro­line (6-0) hold­ing its slimmest se­cond-half lead of the sea­son at 7-3, and even­tu­ally fin­ish­ing with its low­est point to­tal of the year. It also came on a night filled with pe­nal­i­ties and turnovers, the Bull­dogs fum­bling away po­ten­tial scor­ing chances on the War­rior 15, 14, 9 and 17yard lines. But it came. “I saw how the kicker was com­ing at my di­rec­tion,” John­son said. “So I started off with my hands, be­fore I got off the ball, in a di­a­mond, know­ing it would be eas­ier to block it and be more se­cure with it. I was able to use my speed and get there quick enough be­fore it got kicked.”

Be­fore the open­ing kick­off, this an­nual grudge match had the in­gre­di­ents for an of­fen­sive show­case with the po­ten­tial to ri­val the Bull­dogs’ 49-48 vic­tory in 2016. North Caro­line ar­rived av­er­ag­ing 36.6 points a game, while Eas­ton sopho­more quar­ter­back Ryan O’Con­nor had passed for 1,135 yards and 17 touch­downs.

But the of­fen­sive fire­works never ma­te­ri­al­ized.

North Caro­line to­taled seven first downs and 111 yards over five first-half pos­ses­sions, which ended with

a fum­ble, three punts and a turnover on downs. Eas­ton fin­ished with seven first downs and 147 yards over six first-half pos­ses­sions, which ended with three punts, a fum­ble, and time run­ning out in the half.

The War­riors’ other pos­ses­sion — a six-play, 86yard scor­ing drive, fea­tur­ing runs of 21 and 50 yards by Thatcher Knox (10 car­ries, sea­son-high 115 yards) — was capped by StecherS­cott’s 31-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead 17 sec­onds into the se­cond quar­ter, the first points scored on North Caro­line’s first-team de­fense this sea­son.

De­fenses again ruled the se­cond half, with the Bull­dogs con­tin­u­ing to pres­sure O’Con­nor, who for the game com­pleted 12 of 36 for a sea­son-low 68 yards and one in­ter­cep­tion. It was the first time Eas­ton’s quar­ter­back had been held with­out a touch­down and un­der 140 yards all sea­son.

“I’m not fool­ish to think 3-0 was go­ing to win the game,” War­riors head coach Pat McGlinchey said, his team now 2-4. “But their de­fense was re­ally at­tack­ing us. They re­ally brought a lot of pres­sure. Our line re­ally didn’t hold up in the se­cond half. It held up de­cently in the first half. But in the se­cond half they got to us and were able to get to Ryan. And that’s, dare I say, a car­di­nal sin for an of­fen­sive line. They know that no one is sup­posed to touch their quar­ter­back. And North Caro­line did a lot of that in the se­cond half.”

North Caro­line, which got a 24-carry, 154-yard rush­ing ef­fort from Joey Bild­stein, moved from its 43 to the War­rior 33, where on fourt­hand-8, quar­ter­back Casey Bryd broke loose for a 31yard gain. Two plays later, Ryan Bauer (18-72) slanted off the left side for a 1-yard touch­down run. Will Man­ship added the ex­tra point for a 7-3 Bull­dog lead with 5:51 left in the third quar­ter.

Af­ter an Eas­ton three-and­out, North Caro­line looked ready to ex­tend its lead, go­ing from its 48 to Eas­ton’s 14. But the Bull­dogs fum­bled and Eas­ton’s Noah Greene made the se­cond of his three re­cov­er­ies.

“Our de­fense played lights out,” McGlinchey said. “It was by far the best game for them. Jarin Win­ters was as mon­ster. Un­for­tu­nately, we weren’t able to cap­i­tal­ize on those turnovers.”

The War­riors mus­tered two yards on their next pos­ses­sion, forc­ing and punt, which re­sulted in John­son’s block, Way­man’s touch­down fum­ble re­cov­ery and Man­ship’s se­cond PAT for a 14-3 lead.

Eas­ton’s next two pos­ses­sions ended with North Caro­line’s Tucker Stevens strip­ping the ball from O’Con­nor — the first re­cov­ered by John­son, the se­cond re­cov­ered by Eas­ton on fourth down. The War­riors’ fi­nal two se­cond-half pos­ses­sions ended with Trent Hil­lard in­ter­cept­ing O’Con­nor and John­son sack­ing O’Con­nor on fourth down.

“It wasn’t pretty,” McCormick said. “We had a lot of turnovers. We had a lot of penal­ties that just weren’t smart. But our kids com­peted. Some­times you’ve got to win ugly.

“Our de­fense played out of their minds,” added McCormick of a unit that yielded only two first downs af­ter block­ing the punt. “Ryan Bauer locked down the (Eas­ton wide re­ceiver Grant) Cop­per kid. We left him out there on an is­land a lot and he made some great plays. Our two de­fen­sive ends, Ken­dron and C.J., they were pres­sur­ing the kid all night long. If we can keep play­ing like that, we’ll be all right.”

PHOTO BY DUSTIN HOLT

North Caro­line’s Tucker Stevens (4) strips the ball from Eas­ton quar­ter­back Ryan O’Con­nor for the sack and fum­ble, which was re­cov­ered by the Bull­dogs.

PHOTO BY WILLIAM HAUFE

North Caro­line’s C.J. John­son, left, blocks Alex Stecher-Scott’s punt in the fourth quar­ter Fri­day night to help give the Bull­dogs a 14-3 lead.

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