Statesville’s football team is on the brink of securing its first unbeaten regular season since 1989.
“We’ve got one more to go,” coach Randall Gusler said.
The latest victory, coming on a night the Greyhounds honored their 22 seniors, wasn’t even close. They dominated both sides of the ball and shut out East Rowan 55-0 on Friday.
Morgan Conner’s scoop and score on a 32-yard fumble return in the fourth quarter was the exclamation point as Statesville, ranked fifth in 3A, improved to 10-0 overall and 4-0 in the North Piedmont Conference.
One win also separates them from the NPC championship.
Players of the game
Statesville senior running back Caylon Imes and defensive lineman Kinstin Reaves were named the N.C. Farm Bureau Insurance Offensive and Defensive Players of the Game.
Imes followed up last week’s performance at Carson, in which he carried the ball 14 times for 310 yards and three touchdowns, with 234 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries against East Rowan (4-6, 1-3). Imes also caught two passes for 62 yards.
Reaves, a junior, factored into five tackles for loss, a couple of which were unassisted.
Picking up where they left off
Statesville led 27-0 at halftime.
The opening drive of the third quarter resulted in an Imes’ 44-yard touchdown run.
Tynan Tucker’s interception got the Greyhounds the ball back. Nebanye Moore connected with Amauri Gibbs for a 25-yard pass play, and that led to Moore’s 1-yard jaunt into the end zone with 4 minutes, 14 seconds left in the third.
Moore’s 47-yard TD strike to Jasaiah Gathings on an untimed play to end the third quarter made it 48-0, and the clock ran continuously in the fourth quarter due to the mercy rule.
First half highlights
Statesville scored three touchdowns on its first 10 offensive plays to lead 21-0 with 3:40 remaining in the first quarter.
Marquis Dalton broke free for a 43-yard scoring run on the Greyhounds’ second play.
Ky’Wuan Dukes’ 9-yard TD reception from Moore punctuated a 74-yard scoring drive on the Greyhounds’ second possession. Moore’s check down pass to Imes went for 50 yards and helped set up the score that made it 14-0 with 5:00 remaining in the period.
East Rowan’s third straight three-and-out led to another punt. Statesville started at its own 20. Imes took the handoff on the first play afterward, hit the hole and was off to the races for an 80-yard TD run that extended the lead to 21-0.
“I think we came out and jumped on them quick,” Gusler said. “The defensive came out and played well again, got a three-and-out on the first possession.”
On the first four Mustangs drives they failed to pick up a first down.
The scoring cooled off in the second quarter, but the offensive disparity in the opening half—and the game, for that matter—was staggeringly in favor of the Greyhounds.
They outgained the Mustangs 361-44 during the first two quarters alone. East Rowan managed only 80 net yards for the game and 37 of that came on one first-half pass play.
By the numbers
Moore only completed 9 of 23 passes but they went for a combined 234 yards and three touchdowns.
Gathings hauled in four Moore passes for 134 yards, including TDs covering 46 and 47 yards.
Quintin Blackmon had the other of Statesville’s two interceptions.
The Greyhounds travel to Mt. Ulla next week for a winner-take-all showdown with West Rowan for the NPC title. The Falcons are also 4-0 in the league after Friday’s 26-7 win over Carson.
All indications entering Friday night were that scenario would present itself.
The Greyhounds clearly weren’t looking too far ahead. They handled their business.
“That’s the thing we preached this week,” Gusler said. “We watched film on East Rowan and they moved the ball on South Iredell (last week). Number 2 (Sammy Pinckney) had about 559 rushing yards the last two weeks. We needed to make sure we stopped him on defense.”
S—Marquis Dalton 43 run (Ky’Wuan Dukes run), 9:13.
S—Dukes 9 pass from Nebanye Moore (Sam Buckner kick failed), 5:00.
S—Caylon Imes 80 (Buckner kick), 3:40.
S—Jasaiah Gathings 46 pass from Moore (pass failed), 3:33.
S—Imes 44 run (Buckner kick), 9:08.
S—Moore 1 run (Buckner kick), 4:14.
S—Morgan Conner 32 fumble return (Buckner kick), 9:52.