North Raleigh exploded for 21 first quarter points and made it hold up as they cruised to a 31-12 win over Hickory Grove in first round playoff action of the NCISAA Division II football playoffs.
The Knights took advantage of two key Lion first period turnovers and converted each into touchdowns as they continued their record breaking season. However it was the Knight defense, keyed by junior linebacker Jeff Gemmell, who made the biggest statement in the contest. Gemmell had three quarterback sacks and the Knight defenders held Hickory Grove to 161 yards of total offense inclung a paltry ten yards on the ground.
The contest was significant in that it was the first playoff game ever hosted by the Knights who fielded their first team in 2005. Also they achieved yet another milestone with their ninth victory of the season, another school record.
After forcing a three and out on Hickory Grove's first possession, North Raleigh took over on their own 48 following a Lion punt. QB John Cook connected with tailback Cody Sterrett for seven yards and Charlie Davisson and Sterrett ripped off runs of 15 and 16 yards respectively. Cook then found Davisson in the right corner of the endzone from 19 yards out for the games initial score with 9:04 showing on the first period clock. Freshman left footed kicker Corey Lewis added the first of four extra points he would kick on the night and the Knights would never trail.
Three plays later, NRCA pounced on a Terrell Patton fumble at the Lion 47 and the Knights were once again back in business. This series Cook completed a pair of tosses to Rich Landis and connected with Sterrett for 14 yards. Sterrett then got the final seven yards on the ground staking the Knights to a 14-0 advantage with 4:11 to play in the opening stanza.
Once again the turnover bug bit Hickory Grove as North Raleigh defensive back James Wilson picked off a Chris Bryant pass and returned it to the Lion 34 yard line. The Knights then mounted a six play drive keyed by Sterrett's 20 yard run and culminating in Davisson's two yard run to up their lead to 21-0 with 52 seconds remaining in quarter number one.
The teams traded turnovers in the second period before the Hickory Grove offense came to life with their first scoring drive. Starting at their own 36 following a North Raleigh fumble the Lions marched downfield behind the running of Terrel Patton who had 22 yards in the drive. However the key play was a 39 yard pass from QB Chris Bryant to Ini Ndoh who got behind the Knight's secondary for the completition putting the ball at the NRCA five yard line. After the Knight defense stuffed a pair of running attempts, Bryant found Keyshawn Allen over the middle in the endzone for their first score. North Raleigh threatened late in the second quarter driving to the Hickory Grove 14 but Lewis' field goal attempt from 27 yards out was wide right as time expired in the first half with the Knights holding a 21-6 lead.
The second half become more of a defensive struggle with neither team doing a lot offensively. North Raleigh scored their only touchdown of the final half after taking possession on their own 22 following a Hickory Grove punt. Cody Sterrett ripped off runs of 31 and 13 yards and John Cook got 14 more more in the drive coVering 78 yards all on the ground. Charlie Davisson found paydirt from two yards out for the third quarter's only points.
After taking over on downs at the Hickory Grove 26 midway through the final stanza, North Raleigh drove to the Hickory Grove eight where they faced a fourth and goal. But freshman kicker Corey Lewis again came through booting a 25 yard field goal extending the Knight lead to 31-6 with 5:02 to play. Hickory Grove's offense, which had sputtered much of the contest, then finally showed signs of life. Starting at their own 24 following the Knight kickoff, quarterback Chris Bryant completed four passes, included two to Keyshawn Allen covering 55 yards as they drove to the NRCA two yard line. There facing a fourth and goal Bryant sliced into the endzone with 55 seconds left to play cutting the deficit to 31-12 but it was a matter of too little too late.
North Raleigh was paced offensively by Cody Sterrett who rushed for 152 yards while QB John Cook was 13-23 passing for 139 yards. Linebacker Jeff Gemmell paced the defense with three quarterback sacks. Hickory Grove QB Chris Bryant was 17-31 for 151 yards and Keyshawn Allen had five receptions for 73 yards. Defensively Ryan Jernigan and Kameron Marlow stood out.
With the win North Raleigh is now a school record 9-2 while Hickory Grove concludes their season at 6-5. North Raleigh now faces the formidable task of traveling 250 miles west to do battle with unbeaten Christ School next Friday night in what should be a bang up contest.
NORTH RALEIGH 31
HICKORY GROVE 12
HGBC : 0-6-0-6-12
NRCA : 21-0-7-3--31
NRCA : Charlie Davisson 19 yd pass from John Cook (Corey Lewis kick); 9:04 1st Q
NRCA : Cody Sperrett 7 yd run (Lewis kick); 4:11 1st Q
NRCA : Davisson 2 run (Lewis kick); 0:52 1ST Q
HGBS : Keyshawn Allen 5 pass from Chris Bryant (kick failed); 8:35 2nd Q
NRCA : Davisson 2 yd run (Lewis kick); 2:15 3rd Q
NRCA : Lewis 25 yd Field Goal. 5:04 4th Q
HGBC : Bryant 3 yd run (conversion failed); 0:44 4th Q
HGBC : Ini Ndoh 2-2, Dakota Hunter 2-10, Keshawn Holliday 2-6, Chris Bryant 9 (-35), Terrell Patton 10-29.
NRCA : Charlie Davisson 6-38, Cody Sterrett 23-152, John Cook 10-7.
HGBC : Chris Bryant 17-31-151-1 int
NRCA : John Cook 13-23-139-2 int
HGBC : Dakota Hunter 6-26, Ini Ndoh 5-51, Terrell Patton 1-1, Keyshawn Allen 5-73.
NRCA : Jacob Carter 1-10, Cody Sterrett 4-41, Charlie Davvison 3-53, Rich Landis 3-21, Traemani Hawkins 1-6, Daniel Rose 1-8.