CHERRYVILLE–There was a little extra buzz in the atmosphere as Cherryville took the field to play R-S Central Friday night in its 2005 home football opener.
The heightened anticipation was the result of what happened last week at Bunker Hill. The Ironmen beat the Bears 22-9 for their first victory in a season opener since 1986.
But some of the good vibes generated by that win quickly evaporated. R-S Central, a once down-and-out program that is on the way back to football respectability, needed only four plays to score the first time it touched the football.
The Hilltoppers also scored the next three times they had the football in the first half, two of them on plays covering 81 and 54 yards.
By halftime, R-S Central led 28-0 and was well on its way to an eventual 35-13 win.
The Hilltoppers (2-0) simply had too much speed at the skill positions, too much size up front and too much depth for the Ironmen, who dressed out only 23 players.
R-S Central sophomore running back Najee Greene set the tone early. Greene took a pitch to his right, found a seam and turned on the speed for a 60-yard touchdown run just three minutes into the game.
Greene and backfield mate Michael Lynch combined for 189 yards rushing on nine plays in the first half alone. Greene picked up 89 yards on four attempts, and Lynch hit the 100-yard mark on five carries.
Cherryville, which broke an 11-game losing streak last week at Bunker Hill, held R-S Central to one touchdown in the second half and scored twice late in the game to end on a positive note.
But even though the Ironmen played better after intermission, they made too many mistakes in the first half to climb back into the game.
Cherryville amassed 384 yards in total offense, but two turnovers in the red zone and some ill-timed penalties kept the Ironmen out of the end zone until late in the game.
“Offensively, we moved the ball up and down the field but didn`t punch it in,” coach Richard Davis said. “We did as well as we can do offensively. I should be looking at two more scores. But you can`t come up empty like that against a good team.”
Sophomore QB Cameron Lovelace completed 18 of 28 passes for 274 yards. On the other hand, Lovelace was picked off twice in the first half, once at the R-S Central 5-yard line and the second time at the Hilltoppers` 10-yard line.
The Hilltoppers, meanwhile, were much more efficient. Lynch broke an 81-yard touchdown run on the Hilltoppers` second possession, and quarterback George Hines capped the big-play first half with a 54-yard touchdown pass to John Jackson late in the second quater.
Greene got his second touchdown on a 21-yard run in the third quarter to make the score 34-0, R-S Central.
Cherryville finally got on the scoreboard on two fourth quarter touchdown passes by Lovelace, a 14-yarder to Brad Kendrick and a 42-yard strike to Al Benson, who caught eight balls for 140 yards.
Jamelle Jefferies, a junior transfer from Lincolnton, had four pass receptions for 98 yards for the Ironmen.
Another bright spot was the running of sophomore Joquain Johnson, who churned out 74 yards on 19 carries.
R-S Central`s big play offense rushed 38 times for 394 yards, and Hines was 5 for 10 passing for another 111 yards.
In summing up the game, Davis said, “I was pleased with the offense, but I was not happy with the defense. We have to make some adjustments.”
Friday`s meeting was the first between R-S Central and Cherryville since 1970. R-S now leads the series 17-8-2.
This week, the Ironmen play at North Gaston to start a swing of three straight games on the road.
by Mike Powell