Leader Blues

Saturday, September 06, 2008

SPORTS>>Cabot South breaks through to beat North

Leader sports editor

Well, the South boys finally got one over on their brethren from the North after two long years of futility. And just in time for the two clubs to join as one next season at the varsity level.

Cabot South used a pair of first-half drives to hold on for a 14-8 victory over Cabot North on a drizzly night at Panther Stadium on Thursday. It was the first victory this specific bunch has enjoyed over the North, having lost as seventh graders, and twice last year as eighth graders.

“We only won two games last year,” said South head coach Lee Melder. “And we’d never beat that group before, so this was just an awesome win for these guys and I’m proud of each and every one of them.”

It was pretty obvious early on that whoever controlled the clock held the advantage with both teams grinding it out as expected with straight-ahead running.

“We always take the football first when we can,” said Melder, whose team took the opening kickoff and marched 61 yards on just five plays. “Possessions are very important, especially in games (against North) because you can have 20-play drives.”

South needed only five plays to jump to an 8-0 lead when Mason Haley went off right tackle, found a seam and burst downfield 48 yards untouched, then added a two-point conversion run.

Haley finished with 88 yards on the night on 14 carries, tying him with North’s C.J. Hughes (13-88) for game-high honors. North actually outgained South 184-158 in total yards, but other than a touchdown on its first possession, could never sustain another drive.

North held the ball for more than seven minutes on its opening drive, finally hitting paydirt on Hughes’ one-yard plunge at the 6:22 mark of the second period. One play earlier, Hughes had improbably kept the drive alive by taking a fourth-and-12 pitch and sweeping right down to the 1 for the first down.

Hughes then carried a couple of tacklers into the end zone for the two-point conversion to knot the game at 8.

South answered with a 12-play, 66-yard drive. The big play came on a third and three when Austin Alley broke free at the line of scrimmage to surge for a first down at the North 20. On fourth and one from the 11, Haley took a pitch and tossed a touchdown pass to Daniel Fox with 36 seconds left in the half. The extra point was blocked, but the scoring was over for the night.

The first defensive stop of the night came on North’s first possession of the second half when on consecutive plays James Krenz came up big for South, stuffing Hughes for a loss on third and six and sniffing out a fake punt by Kyle Sturgeon on fourth and seven.

South took over at the North 42, but the drive stalled when Spencer Roberg picked off a pass. But North returned the favor when Haley scooped up Sturgeon’s fumble at the South 35 early in the final period.

South ran off three precious minutes, then got a nice 35-yard punt by Austin Samples that left North six points down and 84 yards away with just over three minutes. When Matthew McCollough and Michael Baker broke up a fourth-down pass, South took over and took most of the remaining time off the clock.

“I wanted to see if our line would be as physical as they should be,” Melder said. “And I thought they did a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage. Especially the defensive line in the second half.”

In addition to Haley’s 88 yards on the ground, Josh Graham added 21 and Bryson Morris 20 for South.

North got 88 from Hughes and 69 more from Sturgeon.

For Melder, the victory represented a shift in attitude for his club.

“Last year, things would have gone bad, like things that happened tonight and they might have folded,” he said. “Tonight, they just kept plugging away. They have much more mental toughness. It’s a different team and a different year. You’re watching a team grow.”