WALLACE – Football is often a game of adjustments — before, during and after – and has often been referred to as a chess match because of the many strategic movements that must be made.
Injuries in Wallace-Rose Hill’s backfield forced head coach Kevin Motsinger and offensive coordinator Adam Scronce to sound a battle call to their players.
Two sophomores rose to the challenge the past two weeks, leading WRH (4-1, 1-0) to victories over Southwest Onslow 45-7 last Friday in the East Central 2A Conference opener and over Pender (56-28) on Sept. 9.
Sophomore running back Lonnie Smith was the super star against Pender, dashing his way to 191 yards and five touchdowns.
But Smith left the game Friday against Southwest after his second carry when he hyper-extended an elbow.
Enter classmate Irving Brown, who played the role of a star by rolling to 278 yards and matching Smith with five scores.
An early miscue motivated Brown to step up and play above and beyond his previous production.
“He felt bad about a play he messed up that caused an injury, and told Reid (Page,D’DQB/DB) he’d make it up to him,” Motsinger said.
Yet that was but a small sample of the injuries to the Bulldogs on Jack Holley Field the last two weeks. Starting QB Xzavier Pearsall was unable to play because of a back injury against the Patriots, and backup Page hit the bench with a knee injury.
Top RB Antwon Montgomery was dressed out but told he would only be used in an emergency. Two other running backs – Corey Boney and Devine West — played but were less than normal due to shoulder injuries.
The many subtractions forced Motsinger and Scronce to scrap WRH’s staple Wing-T offense in favor of a single-wing attack in which the ball is snapped directly to a running back, who can also hand it off to another back.
To say Brown excelled in his new role would be a huge understatement. He had run for just 121 yards in the previous four games.
Sophomore Corbin Kerr (12-52), WRH’s leading rusher this season with an even 500 yards, added two touchdowns.
Even so, none of that would have been possible without the play of the Bulldogs’ offensive line, which laid down the foundation for plays.
“We’re in a good place mentally and a terrible place physically, but our kids rolled up their sleeves and went to work,” Motsinger said. “Our O-line knew it had to get it done and they did.
“People were all over me for playing these young running backs in scrimmages and moving forward, but they needed reps and confidence because they have a chance to be special players. And our offensive line also has a chance to be special.”
WRH gave up an early touchdown, but not much thereafter.
“We played extremely well on defense, handled the adjustments as everyone was dialed in,” Motsinger said. “We had a great practice week. We talk all the time about the need to depend on each other, and our kids reminded us of those life lessons we learn in the weight room, and ran with it. They were the ones who reminded us of that. I think that was a key factor.”
So while Brown was the statistical leader, he was but one of the Bulldogs who blossomed in the face of adversity.
WRH has won three straight against Southwest—by routs— and six of eight to pull its all-time series mark to 7-9.
Not this time
SWO is one of only four schools with a winning record vs. the Bulldogs in series of at least 10 games. The others are Clinton, which the Dogs trail 23-30, Southern Wayne 10-12 (which they once trailed 0-6 in the 1960s), and Whiteville 4-6.
Tour of Lenoir
schools on tap
WRH’s schedule should favor a team hammered by injuries as the Bulldogs travel to South Lenoir on Friday for the first of three straight games against Lenoir County schools.
The Blue Devils (1-4) have lost four in a row since beating Jones Senior on opening night.
WRH stays on the road the following week to square off against North Lenoir (1-3) before returning home to face Kinston (4-1) on Oct. 14.
Michael Jaenicke can be reached at email@example.com