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The Southern Nash High varsity football team, irked by a pair of first half blunders, stormed to a 59-14 nonconference victory against county rival Nash Central Thursday evening.
The Firebirds, projected to repeat as 3-A Big East Conference champions, emerged from a 21-14 margin with 38 unanswered points to climb to 2-0 and boost their point total for two games to 124.
Nash Central struck on the 84-yard return of a fumble recovery and a 94-yard kickoff return in dropping to 1-1.
Southern Nash wound up piling up 581 yards of total offense, including 457 yards on the ground. Head coach Brian Foster’s offense just missed showcasing three backs with 100 yards or more rushing.
Senior back Quinton Cooley amassed 116 yards and two touchdowns on 14 rushes and caught a TD pass. Sophomore back Jackson Vick darted for 111 yards and two TDs on 12 rushes. Senior quarterback Matt Foster added 96 rushing yards and threw a pair of TD passes.
The Bulldogs, expected to fare better in the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference this season, managed but 50 yards total offense. Nash Central did not threaten and had just one first down in the second half.
But the mistakes bothered Southern Nash’s head coach.
“You can’t have turnovers; you can’t give up fourth-down conversions and you can’t have long kickoff returns,” Brian Foster said. “But young kids make mistakes and, sometimes, it’s good for things to happen and bring us back down to earth so that we do things the right way.
“If you’re selfish, you need to go somewhere else. Southern Nash football is not about the individual and never will be. The second half was better, but we still need to clean up some things. But I was pleased with the effort and the want-to was better.”
After the Bulldogs’ Shemar Henderson, a junior, danced 94 yards for the TD along the left sideline for his TD on the kickoff return, the Firebirds retaliated by pouring to a 27-14 halftime lead.
Matt Foster, the head coach’s son, hooked up with senior Izaiah Walker-Warren on a 58-yard TD bomb with a minute and 19 seconds left before halftime.
Southern Nash threatened again after Vick’s interception, but the Bulldogs’ Davion Lewis came up with an interception.
But the second half opened with Southern Nash junior Jalen McClaston recovering the kickoff.
The Firebirds capitalized with Cooley twisting the final six yards and Vick plowing over for the two-point conversion.
“The one play that probably defined the game was the first play of the second half,” Nash Central head coach Chris Lee lamented. “We told the guys to be ready for it, but we didn’t execute and recover it. I think they scored three plays later.
“There went all the momentum and the good vibes. We had chances to put points on the scoreboard. I was very pleased with the way we played the first half. The final score was not indicative of the way we played.”
Southern Nash couldn’t be stopped the rest of the way.
Cooley converted a swing pass from Matt Foster into a 26-yard scoring play. On the last play of third quarter, Cooley thundered 25 yards for a TD. Early in the final quarter, the Firebirds’ quartet of senior Jason Bland, senior Devonte Edmundson, senior Jackson Thornton and McClaston swarmed Bulldogs quarterback Jaylan Williams in the end zone for a safety.
Finally, senior Southern Nash back Zachary Jones raced 51 yards for a TD. Senior Evan Barnes kicked the extra point after each of the last two TDs.
After each team threatened but failed to score in a first quarter played in a scant 22 minutes, the Firebirds opened the scoring on Vick’s 47-yard burst on the first play of the second quarter.
Southern Nash was threatening again when sophomore Justin Staten recovered a fumble and scampered 86 yards for a TD.
However, the Firebirds snapped the 7-7 standoff with TD jaunts of 10 yards from Vick and 39 yards from senior Daylon Whitley in the wild second quarter.
Matt Foster orchestrated drives with his running and passing. But he was disappointed with his two lost fumbles and an interception.
“I definitely get to run the ball more,” he noted. “But I have got to get better. The mistakes I made tonight definitely can’t happen against teams better than that. The pick (interception) was definitely my fault.
“Luckily, my teammates played a better game than me that made up for it and kept me in it.”
Hurricane Dorian in the week’s forecast resulted in Southern Nash’s game against 2-A Bunn being moved from Friday to Wednesday. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.