Saturday, September 10, 2011

Carolina Gridiron Game of the Week - Week 4 Postgame Wrap-up

BELMONT – It was a matchup that football fans from across the state had been looking forward to.  Two Top-5 teams battling it out, fighting for every yard while giving it their all, playing on a Friday night in September.  It could very well be a preview of a game in late November.

South Point’s Lineberger Stadium has been home to many big time games throughout the school’s forty year history.  Triple overtime games, late playoff games, conference championships, all were big games.  But, tonight all eyes were on the field to watch the visiting Burns Bulldogs battle the South Point Red Raiders.

The Red Raiders won the opening toss and deferred to the second half.  After taking over at the 20 yard line, the Burns offense looked scattered and couldn’t muster a first down.  Some costly penalties and a big punt return gave the Red Raiders the ball in Burns territory.  South Point did not take long to get the ball to Troy Leeper who found the endzone for his first of five touchdowns for the night making it 7-0 in favor of the home team.

South Point, in the first year of the Mickey Lineberger era, has not missed a beat in their winning ways.  Winning two titles in the past ten years can do that for a program.  The Red Raiders offense is like a machine that keeps running no matter the players involved.  This year’s players, quarterback Patrick Horne and fullback Troy Leeper, are special though and are able to run the “Red Bone” like a work of art.  When fellow Red Raider Devan Robbins took a pitch from Horne midway through the first quarter and scampered into the end zone, South Point fans were celebrating an early 14-0 lead.

The Red Raiders did their best to put Burns away early in this game.  The Bulldogs, in their third year under head coach Matt Beam, has been deep in the playoffs on a regular basis over the last ten years.  Even though it has been 17 years since their last state title, the Bulldogs look to be real challengers to compete for the state title this year.  And it showed tonight.  Down 14-0, Burns running back Darius Ramsey ran it in from the one yard line to make it a one score game.

As seen before this season, a scoring opponent seems to be the fire that motivates South Point’s Troy Leeper who turned a simple off-tackle run into a 47 yard touchdown score.  Burns answered again by going to Ramsey on another short run to start the second quarter.  After trading possessions for the another nine minutes, the Red Raiders again called on Leeper who scored with 12 seconds left in the half to make it 28-14 South Point.

The second half began much the same way as the first half ended with South Point calling on Leeper to give the Red Raiders a three score lead.  Dual-threat quarterback Brandon Littlejohn answered the South Point score with a seven yard run of his own midway through the third quarter.  But, in what was becoming a trend, South Point answered the Burns score with a run by Troy Leeper.  His two yard run with 28 seconds left in the third quarter pushed the South Point lead to 42-21 and the Red Raider faithful began to celebrate in the stands.

That celebration may have been a bit premature though as Burns did not go away quietly.  Two touchdown passes by Brandon Little john and another Darius Ramsey run for a score tied the game at 42 late in the fourth quarter.  Stunned fans on the South Point side and jubilant fans for Burns could all see what was coming next – overtime.

With overtime rules dictating that both teams get a possession at the 10 yard line, South Point elected to play defense first.  The Red Raiders brought the pressure on Burns for three downs forcing the Bulldogs to attempt a punt on fourth down.  The punt was partially blocked, however, and Burns came up empty in their overtime possession.

Not wanting to risk a fumble or other unforeseen situation, Lineberger opted to go for the winning field goal on first down.  Dayton Rogers’ kick split the uprights and South Point celebrated their 45-42 victory.

Burns head coach Matt Beam called this “one of the greatest games I’ve ever been involved with.”  South Point head coach Mickey Lineberger agreed, “there were two good teams out here…this is a great win for South Point.”

On his team’s offensive play, Lineberger said “we take what they give us, that’s how our offense works.  Tonight, they gave us Troy Leeper, and we’ll take that any day.”  Leeper finished the game with 243 yards on 26 carries while scoring five touchdowns.

For Burns, Brandon Littlejohn completed 30 of 45 pass attempts and finished with 289 yards and two scores.  On the ground for the Bulldogs, Darius Ramsey ran for 121 yards on 26 carries and three touchdowns.

“We didn’t throw in the towel and quit and I’m proud of my players for that.  We fought back, tied it at 42, and had a chance” Burns head coach Beam said after the game.

It was a great game in Belmont on Friday and with the way both of these teams played, it would surprise no one if they are still playing late in the playoffs this season.

Check back with Carolina Gridiron for future Games of the Week.