Friday night's season opener looked a lot like last year for South Pointe's Stallions, who extended their winning streak to 16 games with a 55-7 win at J.L. Mann.
The preseason talk was about all the skill players lost from the 2008 team that went 15-0 and won the Class AAAA Division II state championship, but there is still a lot of skill left and the special teams are, well, special.
J.L. Mann's first punt attempt was foiled by a high snap. South Pointe's Jeremy Massey smothered punter Adam Lea at the Patriots' 6-yard line, and Ce-Ce Jones ran it in two plays later for the Stallions' first touchdown of the season.
Raphael Ratliff returned the next Mann punt 49 yards for a touchdown. Ratliff faked out the first two defenders, and by the time he cut to the sidelines was pointing to the end zone.
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“The (defensive) line sets a wall as soon as the kick is away. It all starts with them,” he said.
The third Mann punt was another adventure when Lea kicked the ball off the back of one of his teammates. The Stallions needed just five plays to score again. Senior Quinton Darby ran for an 8-yard touchdown.
Darby ran for 76 yards and two scores while playing just three quarters.
More special-teams superlatives came off the foot of Landon Ard. The junior kicker booted seven kickoffs into the end zone for touchback, was 6-for-6 on PATs and added field goals of 34 and 43 yards.
The Stallions led 38-7 at the half.
Quarterback Corey Rawls threw for 96 yards and a touchdown in the first two quarters. Rawls connected with LeKeenan Mobley on a 48-yard touchdown with 23 seconds left in the half. Rawls and Montay Crockett hooked up for a 78-yard scoring pass and catch 64 seconds into the second half.
Rawls finished 10-for-13 for 173 yards.
With the big lead, South Pointe coach Bobby Carroll was able to get a lot of players into the game. Ta Hicklin, Reggie Cooper and Logan Yard all saw time at quarterback.
“We made some first-game mistakes. We are missing 30-some odd seniors that graduated last year,” Carroll said. “But we are very proud of our guys.”
Carroll was looking ahead to the Friday's home opener when his team will get a much stiffer test hosting North Carolina powerhouse Charlotte Independence.
Jadaveon Clowney, the Stallions' talented defensive end, didn't get a sack in the game but made his presence known.
Clowney forced Patriots quarterback Cody Younce into several hurried throws. J.L. Mann running back Eric Beeks had to be surprised when the 6-foot-6, 250-pounder closed in from behind and ripped him to the ground for no gain on a first-quarter play.
In the fourth quarter, Clowney crashed in toward punter E.J. Conner. Conner shanked the punt out of bounds, netting just 6 yards.
SOUTH POINTE 55 J.L. MANN 7
South Pointe2117107—55J.L. Mann0700—7
SP—Ce-Ce Jones 2 run (Landon Ard kick)
SP—Raphael Ratliff 49 punt return (Ard kick)
SP—Quinton Darby 8 run (Ard kick)
SP—Ard 34 field goal
M—Austin Huguley 20 pass from Cody Younce (Adam Lea kick)
SP—LeKeenan Mobley 48 pass from Corey Rawls (Ard kick)
SP—Montay Crockett 78 pass from Rawls (Ard kick)
SP—Ard 43 field goal
SP—Manzy Miller 4 run (Ard kick)
TEAM STATISTICS SPHSJLMHSFirst downs159Rushes-yards38-19328-115Passing17381Comp-Att-Int10-16-010-22-1Fumbles-Lost3-24-1Penalties-Yards8-657-60
RUSHING—South Pointe: Raphael Ratliff 1-0, Quinton Darby 10-76, Ce-Ce Jones 8-52, Corey Rawls 5-32, Ta Hicklin 4-(-13), Dominique Ferguson 4-7, Logan Yard 2-14, Manzy Miller 1-4, Patrick Siebles 3-21. J.L. Mann: Cam Blassingame 11-42, Eric Beeks 12-39, Chris Wright 1-4, Jamarcus Aiken 2-24, Cody Younce 1-2, E.J. Conner 1-4.
PASSING—South Pointe: Rawls 10-13-173, Hicklin 0-3-0. J.L. Mann: Younce 9-18-76, Conner 1-4-5.
RECEIVING—South Pointe: Desmond McCrorey 2-(-2), Montay Crockett 3-96, JaRyan Jennings 2-16, Tank White 1-16, LeKeenan Mobley 2-47. J.L. Mann: Wright 3-18, Reuben Murray 3-22, Austin Huguley 2-35, David McCutchen Brendon Williams 1-1, Beeks 1-5.
RECORDS—J.L. Mann 0-1; South Pointe 1-0.