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Ragsdale opened the 2012 football season on Friday night with a home win against the Grimsley Whirlies, 28-21.
In a back-and-forth battle, Grimsley scored first before the Tigers scored 21 consecutive points to take a 21-7 lead in the third quarter. After the Whirlies battled back to tie the score early in the fourth, Ragsdale seized the momentum and the game with their fourth touchdown of the night to grab the 28-21 victory.
The Whirlies began the game with a 12-play, 71-yard drive that culminated with 5’ 11”, 205 pound senior De’Shawn Jones running seven yards up the middle for the first touchdown of the night. The drive consumed 5:37 as the offense stayed mostly on the ground. Running the winged-T that Grimsley’s new offensive coordinator, Scott Loosemore, the former Eastern Guilford head coach installed, the Whirlies used misdirection to move the ball down the field, picking up four first downs and putting points on the board.
Ragsdale’s first offensive series stayed exclusively on the ground. After picking up two first downs behind the running of Marquez Eleazer and Brandon Walker, the drive stalled at the Grimsley 42 yard line. The Ragsdale defense settled down after the opening drive and forced two consecutive punts on the next two Whirlie possessions. With their third series of the night, starting at their 42 the Ragsdale offense began to move the ball. Senior quarterback Colson Herndon, getting his first varsity start, connected with Erik Romer for his first completion of the night to start the drive. The pass picked up nine yards and moved the Tigers into Grimsley territory. That pass seemed to open things up for the running game as Eleazer found a hole up the middle for 21 yards and a first down. Two plays later, facing a third and eight from the 25 yard line, Herndon found Joe Pantuso in the end zone. Pantuso was bumped by the defensive back before the ball arrived, drawing a flag, but still managed to make the catch for the touchdown. Sophomore Lucas Hicks converted the point-after to tie the game midway through the second quarter.
The defense gave the Tigers one more opportunity before halftime. Middle linebacker Duncan Sparks picked off a pass from Grimsley quarterback Jake Simpson, giving the offense the ball at the Tiger 34 yard line with 2:27 left. Ragsdale used three consecutive big plays to move inside the 10 yard line. Eleazer got things started with an 18-yard run off the left side, then Herndon hooked up with Walker for another first down on a 12-yard completion. Xavier Jones stepped in at tailback and went up the middle for 29 yards. Two plays later, Jones went off left guard for the go-ahead score which, with the Hicks extra point, gave the Tigers a 14-7 lead at the half.
On their second possession of the second half, the Herndon-Pantuso duo hooked up again to put the Tigers up by 14. On the first play of the drive, Herndon found Pantuso on the left sideline for 17 yards. Three plays later, Herndon connected with Pantuso at the 15 yard line. After making the catch, Pantuso sidestepped the defender and went up the right sideline and into the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown. Hicks was successful again and the Tigers had taken a 21-7 lead and seemed to be in control of the game. The Whirlies had other ideas.
They came right back after the kickoff and got big plays from their running back to get back in the game. De’Shawn Jones carried the ball twice for 13 yards and a first down. Two plays later, facing a third and one from their 42, Jones took a handoff up the middle, seemed to be stopped and then burst into the clear and went untouched into the end zone.
Ragsdale helped the Whirlies out as they fumbled on their next possession. With the momentum clearly shifting to the Grimsley side, and aided by two consecutive Ragsdale penalties, the Whirlies moved to the Ragsdale 14 yard line. Two consecutive big plays by the Tigers defensive end, Brian Nwokolo, brought up a third and 15. Grimsley’s Simpson made a great play to keep the drive alive. Dropping back to set up the screen pass, Simpson was hit, but still got the pass away and connected with Jones who went for 17 yards and the first down. From there, Scott Johnston went the final two yards for the game-tying score. With 10:12 left in the game, the Whirlies had come all the way back to knot the score at 21.
Ragsdale quickly wrestled the momentum back. The offense moved the ball into Grimsley territory with another Pantuso reception and then handed the ball to Xavier Jones who went off right tackle, got a big block to get him outside and was gone for the 45-yard touchdown. Hicks booted his fourth point-after of the night and Ragsdale was back on top by 28-21 with just over 8 minutes left in the game.
From there, the Tiger D shut the Whirlie offense down. Grimsley had the ball for three more possessions and did not pick up another first down. They ran eight plays and were held to a total of 12 yards as the game ended with Grimsley on their own 27 yard line as the Tigers recorded the first win of the 2012 season.
The Ragsdale offense had a very effective opening game as they had 367 yards in total offense. Herndon was very effective in running the offense and after two incomplete passes on his first two throws, he completed his next 10 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns. Pantuso had a big night as a receiver, catching five passes for 91 yards and was on the receiving end of two touchdowns. Walker had three catches for 39 yards and Erik Romer pulled in two balls for 17. The running game behind the revamped offensive line picked up 220 yards on the night. Xavier Jones rushed for 105 yards on only eight carries with two TDs as he filled in for Eleazer. Jones also starts in the defensive backfield. Eleazer was the workhorse on offense, carrying the ball 22 times for 96 yards.
The defense struggled early on with the Grimsley offense but settled in late in the game. Duncan Sparks was the leading tackler from his middle linebacker position as he was credited with 13 tackles and had the big interception. Sophomore linebacker Bryce Walker had 11 tackles and senior safety Fred Davis was in on 10.
Grimsley is much improved over last season under head coach Damon Coiro as they were able to move the ball, mostly on the ground. Their big running back, De’Shawn Jones, picked up key yardage and was credited with 128 yards on 14 carries. Johnston also picked up yardage and quarterback Jake Simpson did a good job running the offense.
It was a good opening to the season and although coach Tommy Norwood stressed to the team after the game that there was plenty of room for improvement, the effort was there and the team shows a lot of potential on both sides of the ball.
Ragsdale now goes on the road to take on the Dudley Panthers who got their season off on a winning note with a 49-25 win over Southern Durham. Grimsley will be at home to take on Northwest Guilford.
First Downs 15R 11G
Rushing Yardage 220R 206G
Rushes 40R 36G
Passing Yardage 147R 59G
Pass Comp/Att/Int. 10/13/1R 9/17/1G
Punts/Avg Yds 2/34.5R 5/27.0G
Fumbles/Lost 1/1R 1/0G
Penalties/Yds 9/80T 6/50G
Time of Possession 22:07R 25:53G
G – De’Shawn Jones 7 yard run (Scott Johnston kick) (6:23)
R – Joe Pantuso 25 yard pass from Colson Herndon (Lucas Hicks kick) (11:39)
R – Xavier Jones 5 yard run (Hicks kick) (1:20)
R – Pantuso 29 yard pass from Herndon (Hicks kick) (3:59)
G – D. Jones 58 yard run (Johnston kick) (1:51)
G – Johnston 2 yard run (Cole Leonard kick) (10:12)
R – X. Jones 45 yard run (Hicks kick) (8:23)
Grimsley 7 0 7 7 – 21
Ragsdale 0 14 7 7 – 28