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Rams squander lead, lose to Kinston

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Kinston's Cortez White runs the ball during their game against Greene Central on Nov. 9, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By Jake Keator
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Greene Central Rams looked to pull off one of the biggest upsets of the season against undefeated Kinston, and nearly did. In the end, however, one key play ended any thought of knocking off the 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference leader.

Looking at a first-and-goal from the 10-yard line, it seemed the Rams were going to pull off a miracle on senior night. Instead, AJ Dupree fumbled the ball, leading to a turnover and a heartbreaking end to the Rams regular season in a 26-24 loss. 

The Rams played an almost perfect first half, taking a 24-7 lead into halftime. The Vikings then pitched a second-half shutout on their way to 17 unanswered points and a win.

Dupree, a natural running back, was forced into quarterback action after regular starter B.J. Corbitt suffered a knee injury. Dupree had no luck throwing the ball against the Kinston defense, finishing just 1-for-6, throwing for 14 yards and an interception.

Dupree found most of his success running the ball out of the backfield, finishing with 19 carries for 90 yards and one touchdown. Hiss backup, Knowledge Branch, also took advantage of the opportunity, using 21 carries to go 101 yards and tally a score. Fellow running back Cornelius Smith also had a score, along with nine carries for 99 yards.

“Two red-zone turnovers hurt us,” Rams head coach Allen Wooten said. “Turning the ball over is bad, turning the ball over in the red zone is really bad. In the second half they had no turnovers and we had two. We missed a sack on two perfect blitz calls. They didn’t call a play to beat us. We missed the sack and the quarterback made a hell of a throw and the receiver made a hell of a catch.”

Things didn’t get off to a hot start for GC, as Dupree fumbled the ball after just three plays. The Rams defense didn’t break despite the circumstances, as the Vikings missed a 30-yard field goal following the turnover. A combination of Dupree and Branch was the key to the Rams first half success, as the duo drove its team down to the Kinston 17-yard line. That’s when Branch took the ball and got GC on the board, followed by Dupree’s two-point conversion.

The Rams were up 8-0, but Kinston refused to be bullied, as Jacel Jacobs rushed four yards to pull Kinston within one, 8-7. 

It was Dupree who put up the Rams next score, going 14-yards for a score which was followed up by Branch converting his first two-point conversion. The combination of effective offense and stifling defense had GC up 16-0. Momentum stuck with the Rams on the Vikings’ next possession, as Sayvion Best recovered a fumble, showing why he was selected as the Wendy’s High School Heisman winner for North Carolina. Smith sneaked in the last score of the half with a 24-yard rushing touchdown to put GC up 24-7.

With 4:06 to go in the third, Kinston struck again, as quarterback Kieren Hooker connected with Justin Holloway, who ran 10 yards to pay-dirt. Kinston was back in business, cutting the Rams lead to 24-14. The scoring continued into the fourth quarter, as Hooker was flushed from the pocket, connecting with Holloway once again, this time for 70 yards and a score. Kinston was quickly back with a vengeance at 24-20 after the extra point attempt went wide left.

The turnover bug hit the Rams once again early in the fourth, as Dupree was intercepted on a lob pass to the left corner of the end zone. It was costly timing for a team that was attempting to regain any traction they could in the game. The Vikings made GC pay for their mistake, using seven plays to move the ball and allow White to score from one yard out, making the score 26-24. 

GC (6-5, 3-3) will await the results of playoff seeding, which will be released today. 

Contact Jake Keator at jkeator@reflector.com, 252-329-9594 and follow @JakeKeatorDR on Twitter.

D.H. CONLEY 28, WEST CRAVEN 20

The Vikings struggled in the final game of their regular season, outlasting West Craven, 28-20.

Quarterback Nick Hamilton finished 17-for-26, throwing for 204 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

Once again, CJ Johnson led all receivers, recording eight receptions for 120 yards and three touchdowns. Mitchell Hoffler led Conley in rushing with 15 rushes for 66 yards, while Hamilton had eight rushes for 23 yards and a score. The Vikings defense remained strong, as Chance Brown recorded two interceptions.

SOUTH CENTRAL 28, HERTFORD COUNTY 0

South Central capped off an undefeated regular season with a dominating 28-0 win over Hertford County.

The Falcons (11-0, 6-0) jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first quarter before tacking on two more touchdowns to end the half and take a 22-0 lead. They added six more points in the third before backing off the scoring and running the clock to end the game.

SC will wait to find out its seeding for the 4-A state playoffs, as the Falcons are expected to be near the top after a very successful regular season. The 11-win mark also marks the fourth consecutive climb in wins for head coach Andy Tew, who continues to improve his team season after season.

J.H. ROSE 20, FRANKLINTON 7

The Rampants saw their regular season end in a game called at halftime, 20-7. The Rams forfeited the game at halftime, citing mounting injuries on their roster and not wanting to continue.

“They came out at halftime and told us they had some injuries and didn’t want to keep playing,” Rampants head coach Dave Wojtecki said.

Wojtecki said he is feeling confident about he and his team’s chances in the upcoming playoffs.

“Right now we are feeling pretty good,” Wojtecki said. “We’re on a winning streak and we’re playing well. We’re excited about practice and playing. We feel like we have a good chance to make a deep run.”

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