Eagles pull away from Dukes

Published 4:42 am Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Prince Edward County High School’s varsity football team earned a big lead by halftime Friday night against host Cumberland County High School and then held off a resurgent Dukes team in the second half to pull away for a 50-16 victory.

“You’re always happy to get a win,” Eagles Head Coach James Ford said. “Glad our guys are putting it together. We’re starting to build a little momentum, get a little consistency and just get better every day.”

Prince Edward held a 35-8 lead at halftime after an outstanding half of offense. In the first quarter, senior running back Jarrel Robinson ran for a 30-yard touchdown. The Eagles took a 14-0 lead after freshman quarterback Nate Reed connected with senior wide receiver Rah’Quan Payne for a 76-yard touchdown pass.

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Expected to be out for much of the regular season with a posterior cruciate ligament tear in his knee, Payne was able to make an early return after getting a second opinion that determined the injury was not nearly so severe. His standout play backed up that judgment as he finished with 2 catches for 81 yards and the score.

“He’s been working hard,” Ford said. “He’s been rehabbing for the last month to get back. Then they were working on him, getting (the knee) stronger, and they said he doesn’t need surgery, and he was able to come back. And so it was awesome to see him back on the field.”

Cumberland responded in the second quarter when sophomore quarterback Ramir Parker got the ball to senior wide receiver Ziahir Berry for a 10-yard touchdown pass. A successful two-point conversion made the score 14-8.

But then Prince Edward senior running back J’Sean Dupuy scored on touchdown runs of 34 and 62 yards, and Robinson scored on another 30-yard sprint to help give the Eagles their 27-point lead at the break.

The Dukes started off well in the second half, moving the ball on offense with strong running from senior fullback Isaiah Carter and senior tailback K.J. Copeland. Then Berry hauled in a 28-yard touchdown pass from Parker midway through the third quarter. Berry also tossed a 2-point conversion pass to Carter to make the score 35-16.

“They were able to get some yards on us,” Ford said. “That Ziahir kid, man, he is as advertised. He is fast, and he can go.”

Berry finished the game with seven catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns and 14 carries for 77 yards.

“We had a hard time containing him,” Ford said. “But once we were able to contain him and made some adjustments defensively, our defense did a great job of bending but not breaking and getting us turnovers and making plays when we could, and then we just pounded the rock in the second half.”

The Eagles scored on a 5-yard run from Dupuy and a 12-yard run from junior Justin Sprague. The team was in position to score again in the waning moments, but it opted to kneel and run the time out.

The loss drops the Dukes to 0-2 as they were coming off of a bye.

“I don’t know how many yards we had in penalties,” Cumberland Head Coach Jamaal Artis said of the game. “We had a lot of yards in penalties. Penalties killed us and turnovers.”

However, he made a point to give credit to his team’s nearby rivals.

“Prince Edward’s a good team, and we just had a hard time containing their backs and speed option,” he said.

Dupuy ended the game with six carries for 122 yards and three touchdowns. Robinson had two carries for 60 yards and two touchdowns, senior running back Rahme Marshall gained 41 yards on five carries, and Sprague recorded four carries for 22 yards and a score.

For the Dukes, Parker went 10-for-14 passing for 165 yards and two touchdowns. Copeland rushed for 73 yards on 13 carries.

Berry added to his offensive heroics with strong play defensively, registering seven tackles, including one for a loss, and a sack.

The heat index forced Cumberland indoors during last week.

“It’s been difficult for us with having to practice in the gym,” Artis said. “We actually had to put pads on in the gym, which is a weird thing, because the kids haven’t worn pads in so long.”

Marshall led Prince Edward’s defense with 12 total tackles, including seven solo tackles, and one forced fumble. Robinson recovered two fumbles and had four tackles, including three solo. Sprague generated two solo tackles and an interception, and senior defensive lineman James Morgan had a forced fumble to go with four solo tackles.

Ford said it was hard to pinpoint stand outs because everybody on his team did so well.

“It was one of those games that there was not one kid that you were like, ‘Oh, we rode him …’” the coach said. “Everyone did their job. The o-line is getting better, we’re getting more consistent. The running backs are getting more consistent, trusting that the holes and stuff are going to be there. Defensively, we’re playing responsible, doing our job …”

Due to the expected arrival of Hurricane Florence, the Eagles’ (2-1) road game against Bluestone High School has been moved up to Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Dukes will now visit Amelia County High School on Monday at 7 p.m.