Vance County’s Samein Burwell entered Friday evening’s key Big Eight 3A Conference showdown with Northwood having established himself as one of the league’s top-rated passers, and his impressive outing against the Chargers in a battle to determine sole ownership of third place in the standings only served to enhance his reputation.
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PITTSBORO — Vance County’s Samein Burwell entered Friday evening’s key Big Eight 3A Conference showdown with Northwood having established himself as one of the league’s top-rated passers, and his impressive outing against the Chargers in a battle to determine sole ownership of third place in the standings only served to enhance his reputation.
The 6’1”, 165-pound senior signal-caller completed 15-of-31 passes for 235 yards and five touchdowns, raising his season total to 28 scoring tosses while surpassing the 2,300-yard mark through the air, as the Vipers built as much as a 29-point third-quarter advantage before holding off a late Northwood challenge to ruin the Chargers’ Senior Night by claiming a 42-21 victory on James L. Griffin Field in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
Assuring itself of a spot in the state playoffs, Vance County improved to 4-2 in the conference and 8-2 overall, while Northwood fell to 3-3 against league rivals and 4-6 for the year.
Despite the Chargers having more than an 18 minute advantage in time of possession, the Vipers managed to outgain their host 299-287 in total yardage.
Northwood workhorse tailback Deuce Powell rushed for 143 yards and a pair of scores on 32 carries, while quarterback Jack Thompson connected on nine-of-16 passes for 108 yards and a touchdown with one interception.
“From watching game films we were expecting Northwood to open in a spread attack, but instead they came out in an I-formation, which caused us to have to make some defensive adjustments,” said Vance County coach Darry Ragland. “In the meantime they took away our running game and forced us to throw the ball, and that ended up working in our favor. Our offense was a little sluggish at the start and we had some missed opportunities in the first half with dropped balls, but the defense played well and we executed at the end when we needed to in order to solidify the win.
“Northwood is a good team and they played hard,” Ragland said, “but I think we just had a few more weapons than they did.”
Chargers’ coach Cullen Homolka remarked in spite of the setback he felt his team accomplished the objective it wanted to achieve.
“Our goal tonight was to establish a running game, an area where we have been inconsistent in all year, and we started to see some results in the second half when we began to wear out Vance County’s defense,” stated Homolka.
“They came at us hard early with some blitzes,” he said, “but once we got our blocking schemes down our tailback had success running downhill for good yardage. Two aspects that really hurt us tonight were not hanging on to catchable balls and untimely pass interference calls.”
On Northwood’s second possession of the night the Chargers moved from their 48 to the Vipers’ 27 prior to Vance County defensive back Phadol Jordan intercepting a Thompson pass at his own five and returning the theft 29 yards, setting up a three-play scoring drive culminating in Burwell finding Jordan, now operating as a wide receiver, open on a left-to-right slant pattern across the middle for a 43-yard TD strike to give the winners a 6-0 advantage with 3:08 remaining in the first quarter.
A minute-and-a-half elapsed before Northwood linebacker Aidan Laros recovered a Kemarrous Jones fumble at the Vipers’ 24, and two plays later Thompson completed a 22-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Jack Spotz wide open in the back of the end zone prior to Laros booting the point-after to put the Chargers ahead 7-6 with 33.7 seconds left in the opening period.
After a failed fourth-down Northwood gamble early in the second stanza allowed Vance County to regain possession at its own 45, the Vipers went 55 yards in six plays to take the lead for good.
Burwell climaxed the march by connecting with wide receiver Noah Terry on a five-yard touchdown toss in the back of the end zone to give Vance County a 12-7 advantage with 9:18 to go in the second quarter.
Starting from their own 27 following a Chargers’ punt with 3:39 remaining until intermission, the Vipers marched 73 yards in seven plays to extend their lead to 20-7. Burwell finished off the drive by dumping a pass over the middle to running back Davonte Evans, who broke two tackles en route to the goal line on a 26-yard scoring play before Burwell hooked up with wide receiver William Hawkins for a two-point conversion toss with 1:48 left in the half.
On its initial possession of the second half Vance County traveled 60 yards in seven plays to increase its advantage to 28-7 when Burwell capped the march with a 10-yard scoring pass to Jones, who made a leaping catch in the back of the end zone prior to Burwell running wide right for a two-point conversion with 7:38 to go in the third quarter.
Five plays into Northwood’s next series Vipers’ linebacker Noah Terry stripped the ball from Powell’s grasp at the Chargers’ 38 and sped untouched down the sideline to the goal line to expand the margin to 36-7 after Burwell passed to Jordan for a two-point conversion with 5:20 remaining in the period.
Northwood then launched a time-consuming 16-play, 89-yard scoring drive ending in Powell’s two-yard run up the middle before Laros added the extra point to trim the difference to 36-14 with 10:39 left in the contest.
After holding Vance County to a three-and-out series, the Chargers closed the gap to 36-21 with 6:41 to play when Powell terminated a seven-play, 38-yard scoring march by bursting the final two yards off right tackle prior to Laros once again splitting the uprights.
But the Vipers then answered with a five-play, 51-yard drive to round out the scoring when Burwell completed a 13-yard fade pass to Jordan in the left side of the end zone with 4:18 showing on the clock.