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Firebirds hold off Gryphons 36-29

October 20, 2012
Rocky Mount High School

From staff reports, Wilson Times

STANHOPE — Its defense pushed to the limit most of the night, Southern Nash High finally got the stop it needed on sophomore linebacker Kendall Parker’s interception of Rocky Mount quarter J.T. Smith with 50.6 seconds remaining in Friday night’s varsity football game in Firebirds Stadium.

The interception, the only turnover of the night, helped the Firebirds preserve a 36-29 triumph to grab sole possession of second place in the 3-A Big East Conference.

Southern Nash (7-2, 3-1 Big East) had its hands full trying to contain senior halfback Mason Hines of Rocky Mount (7-2, 2-2). Hines ran for 275 of the Gryphons’ 276 yards on the ground and scored four touchdowns.

“And he had 37 yards receiving,” said Firebirds head coach Brian Foster.

Hines’ fourth TD, an 11-yard run and two-point run with 6:05 left gave the Gryphons a 29-28 lead. Southern Nash had taken a 28-21 lead on senior Rashid Campbell’s 4-yard TD run and Sergio Penaloza’s fourth extra-point kick less than 90 seconds earlier.

Trailing for the first time since Hines’ 2-yard scoring run put Rocky Mount up 13-7 in the second quarter, the Firebirds made it to the Gryphons’ 38-yard line where they faced a fourth-and-1. Quarterback Deon Lavender, who had already completed two of his three passes to Richard Hall for touchdowns, drilled a pass to junior halfback Desmon Jackson on a curl route 16 yards.

“He put it on the line, right outside. It was perfect,” Foster said of Lavender’s strike. The junior quarterback was 3 for 4 for 89 yards.

“I wish we could have thrown the ball more but we had to try to hold the ball more because we sure couldn’t stop them,” Foster said.

The Gryphons defender going for the ball hit the turf and Jackson made a move and got past two other defenders for a 38-yard TD. Campbell’s two-point run put Southern up 36-29.

The Firebirds got the ball back on Parker’s pick of Smith’s pass and, after punting following three consecutive kneel-downs, survived a final Hail Mary attempt by Smith.

“They’ve just got unbelievable heart,” said Foster of the Firebirds, who were without starting offensive tackle Cameron Gardner, a Wake Forest commit, and starting defensive lineman Roderick Dunston, among others.

“The kids just keep playing. It’s hard to put into words really.”

Campbell ran for 140 yards on 24 carries while Jackson had 94 yards on eight carries.

The Firebirds conclude the regular season Friday night at conference foe Nash Central, while Rocky Mount host Northern Nash.

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