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Prep football notebook

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By PATRICK MASON
Sports Writer

Monday, November 4, 2019

Quinton Cooley had another standout game during Southern Nash’s 35-14 win over host Rocky Mount High on Friday.

The Firebirds senior running back ran for 192 yards and set the school’s single-season rushing record, overtaking former teammate and current N.C. State running back Zonovan Knight.

Cooley has been remarkable this season, scoring 40 total touchdowns while leading the state in rushing yards.

Yet leading up to Friday’s key Big East Conference game, Gryphons coach Jason Battle said that while Cooley requires plenty of attention, that doesn’t mean other Firebirds players can be overlooked.

Southern Nash proved that philosophy to be true on the first snap when Jackson Vick took the game’s opening handoff 55 yards for a touchdown. Vick was one of four different players to run the ball for Southern Nash across the first five offensive plays.

It was just the start of the Firebirds doing a good job of spreading the ball around early before digging in with Cooley as the game progressed. Cooley ended up with a game-high 22 carries and three touchdowns.

He ran 11 times in each half, and often took over drives. On the Firebirds first drive of the second half, Cooley collected six carries on the seven-play touchdown drive.

He credited the defense for making quick stops and getting the offense the ball back after the Gryphons held the ball for 54 seconds on a drive that ended in a punt to start the third quarter.

“The defense played real good today,” Cooley said after the game. “If you look at us, sometimes the defense takes a while to get off the field. But when they get off quick we can get on, keep our momentum, and score. And doing that that picks up everybody.”

Gryphons success through the air

RMH quarterback Jaquan Lynch and the offense found varying levels of success on the team’s four first-half drives. The most fruitful of the bunch came when the senior was throwing the ball.

Lynch attempted no passes on the Gryphons’ first drive of the game, which ended in a punt. Lynch came out throwing and completed four passes on the next drive, including converting a third-and-8 on a play-action pass to Jalen Powell to keep the drive alive. It ended with a field goal try.

RMH would score its lone offensive touchdown on its third drive when Lynch found Antwain Dunston for a 29-yard touchdown. Later, the Gryphons called three run plays on their fourth drive, which ended up as a safety for Southern Nash after a mishandled punt snap sent the ball into the end zone.

Big East Conference outlook

Southern Nash’s win against Rocky Mount High on Friday vaulted the Firebirds into first place in the Big East Conference with one game to play.

The Firebirds (10-0, 4-0) need a win next week against Franklinton for their fourth consecutive undefeated record in conference play. SN hasn’t dropped a conference game since a 2015 loss to the eventual 3-A state champion Gryphons.

The Gryphons, meanwhile, fell to 3-1 in conference play and are tied with Northern Nash for second place. The Knights and Gryphons — each have identical 7-3, 3-1 records — will play in the regular season finale at Northern Nash.

Wilson Fike (1-3 Big East), Wilson Hunt (1-3) and Franklinton (0-4) round out the bottom three of the standings.

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