It may not have been the start that they had hoped for, but the finish was much improved as South Pike shut out Raymond 34-0 Friday on the road. The win marked the 18th-consecutive district win for the Eagles.
“I thought we were terrible the first half, we picked up the tempo and threw it around a little bit to give us a little energy, "echoed South Pike coach Brinson Wall as he described the up and down night for the Eagles.
The game began on the uptick for the Eagles when Marquis Brown recovered a Ranger fumble on the 25. Four plays later, South Pike running back Kameron Reynolds darted into the end zone from 10 yards out for the games first touchdown. Fellow senior running mate Brandon Johnson provided the two point conversion giving the visitors an 8-0 advantage.
After trading a few possessions, the Eagles finally appeared the be gaining consistency on offense before a big setback.
A six-play, 53-yard drive was halted when Johnson fumbled on a 5-yard run just before scoring. Raymond recovered the fumble in the end-zone resulting in a touchback and a blown chance for South Pike.
Looking to seize the momentum , Ranger quarterback Trent Singleton fooled the Eagle defense on a run option and raced 77 yards to pay dirt , but a holding penalty negated the run.
Raymond decided to take a huge gamble going for it on 4th down on their own 25 a few plays later. However, the stingy Eagle Defense stuffed the Rangers and took possession of the ball in prime scoring position.
Two plays later quarterback Chris Royal found a crease in the defense and sprinted 20 yards putting the Eagles up by two scores.
Following the half, South Pike dialed up a heavy dose of the pass in the second half and Royal put on a show.
He connected with Johnson in the left corner of the end zone from ten yards out to cap a pass heavy first possession, putting the Eagles up 22-0.
South Pike’s defense forced a Raymond three-and-out and regained possession before Royal took to the air again placing a perfectly-thrown ball over Reynolds' left shoulder on a 15 yard connection putting them at the Ranger 2-yard line. Royal called his own number rushing in the keeper and giving the Eagles 28-0 advantage heading into the 4th.
Royal put a cap on the game in the 4th after bringing the Ranger defense in on a play action, prior to throwing a 55-yard bomb to junior wide out DJ McNeil for the score.
"He (Royal) really threw the ball well tonight, the receivers caught the ball and the lineman blocked. It was a team effort,” Wall said.
Both teams finished the 4th quarter playing reserves giving the starters a break.
South Pike will be off next week due to a change to Brookhaven's schedule and will return to action in two weeks when the Eagles will travel to clash with District 6-4A foe North Pike to close the regular season.