ROANOKE RAPIDS — Entering the second half of Friday’s matchup with Roanoke Rapids, Warren County found itself in a great position to obtain a big victory against the leader in the Northern Carolina 1A/2A Conference standings.
But mistakes kept the Eagles from taking full advantage of the moment, as they were forced to watch Roanoke Rapids triumphantly celebrate the regular season conference championship following a 35-18 win.
“You can’t turn the ball over,” Warren County head coach V.J. Hunt said. “Our defense was doing a great job getting stops and getting off the field but we turned the ball over and didn’t make the plays. Because of that, we gave [Roanoke Rapids] life.”
Neither Warren County nor Roanoke Rapids could initially generate any offensive momentum, which left the score at 0-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Roanoke Rapids finally broke the drought moments into the second quarter when sophomore running back Austin Geary found an open lane in the middle of the field from Warren County’s 30-yard line to put his team up 7-0.
Geary’s touchdown run kicked off a scoring blitz from both sides. He found the end zone once again with a short field following an interception from Warren County freshman quarterback Najah Williams.
Hunt used some bold play calling to help Williams get comfortable inside hostile territory, drawing up a fake punt on fourth and long. Williams executed the plan perfectly and found senior wide receiver Rodney Jacobs open in the middle of the field, who broke a couple of tackles for Warren County’s first touchdown of the evening.
Roanoke Rapids responded with a touchdown on a kickoff return moments later, but Williams led another successful drive down the field and connected with senior wide receiver Elijah Boyd to get within 10 points of the lead.
Jacobs made another big play for Warren County on defense by intercepting Roanoke Rapids junior quarterback Jamari Edwards. Williams relied on Boyd once again, throwing a perfect spiral to him in the back of the end zone to cut Roanoke Rapids’ advantage down to 21-18 at halftime.
But a costly fumble from Warren County allowed Roanoke Rapids to go on a time-consuming opening drive that ended with Edwards finding the end zone on a quarterback keeper.
Warren County missed out on a potential scoring opportunity after turning the ball over on downs deep in their opponent’s territory but the team got another chance following a lopsided offensive possession from Roanoke Rapids.
The drive was immediately derailed by another lost fumble from Williams, enabling Geary to break off for another big run on Roanoke Rapids’ first possession that gave them a 35-18 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Geary capped off his night by getting an interception off a bad pass from Williams on the ensuing possession, effectively ending any chance of Warren County coming back for the victory.
Hunt believed he came up with a solid game plan that enabled Warren County to exploit Roanoke Rapids’ weaknesses, which left him all the more frustrated that his players kept committing easily avoidable errors.
Despite the loss, Hunt has seen gradual improvement from Warren County over the Eagles' five games together so far and is hoping to see those gains come full circle when they take part in their regular-season finale next Friday.
“We are a 1A school playing in a 2A conference,” Hunt said. “Everybody we play against is bigger than us, but we are growing and learning. We’ve been in every game and tonight was our biggest margin of defeat and it was against the conference champs.”
Warren County will try to finish at .500 on the season when they hit the road to face Louisburg next Friday evening.