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Apr. 3—RED SPRINGS — The reputation of the Red Springs football team in recent years has been built on two things being strong: the Red Devils' run game and its defense.
Friday against South Columbus, the defense was its normal staunch self, shutting out its third opponent this season. But when the run game struggled at times against the Stallions, the Red Devils turned to the passing game.
The defensive effort and some big plays through the air were enough to lead the Red Devils to a 27-0 win.
"We had a rough night offensively; we were still able to score a few touchdowns," Red Springs coach Lawrence Ches said. "Our quarterback (Colton Locklear) played tremendously well. Chris Bryant, one of our freshman tight ends, played tremendously well, and Eddrick James had another tremendous game offensively and defensively.
"But the pride of the night is our defense. Third shutout of the year; defensive coordinator Robert Dove does a tremendous job. Our defense shows a tremendous effort. Just a hungry bunch of dudes that are here to work every night."
Red Springs (4-0, 4-0 Three Rivers Conference) outgained South Columbus (3-2, 3-2 TRC) 317-127, including a 250-43 advantage in the first half.
The Red Devils threw eight passes in the game, choosing their spots — and having success in those spots. Colton Locklear was 5-for-8 passing for 132 yards and two touchdowns, with four of his completions going for 17 yards or more.
"The offense wasn't really moving the ball well on the ground; that's usually what we do when we move the ball well. So we went to passing," Locklear said. "We made a couple of big plays, but we had some mistakes. We've got to fix those mental mistakes and get in good shape and we should be pretty good."
Of those five completions, three went to Bryant for 107 yards and a touchdown, and the other two went to James for 25 yards and a score.
"I just went out there and executed what coach told me to do, and it worked out pretty good," Bryant said. "On defense, he made the right calls on everything and we executed our game plan, and we won the game."
Indeed, the Red Devils defense held the Stallions, themselves known for a typically having a strong run game, to 71 rushing yards.
The shutout was the Red Devils' third of the season, as they haven't allowed a single point in three home games; it's the first time the team has had three shutouts in a season since Lawrence Ches' first season in 2017, and the first time with three at home since 1991.
"It just shows that our kids have tremendous hunger and tremendous integrity, and that's an important thing to them, protecting that home field," Ches said. "We preach all the time, if you take care of home field, limit turnovers, turn the ball over (on defense), that's a recipe for success and that's kind of what happened tonight."
"Our fans are absolutely amazing, and that we've got a lot of heart for our home field," Bryant said. "We've got to keep that going into next week against St. Pauls."
Angel Washington, JoWuan Baker, Shawn Putman and Bryant each had interceptions for the Red Devils.
Red Springs opened the game with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Locklear to James on its opening drive, taking a quick 7-0 lead.
"In practice and before the game, pregame, me and my quarterback will throw the ball, get a feel," James said. "The first pass I missed, because I anticipated the corners wrong, so I told him, next time we go back to that, just laser it, let me get a good one, and let me go up and get it."
The first Red Devils interception gave the team good field position, which was converted into points with a 4-yard Tony Locklear scoring run to take a 14-0 lead with 4:54 left in the first quarter.
Two drives later, Red Springs went 65 yards over 10 plays to score on an 8-yard run by Angel Washington, who had a game-high 67 rushing yards, making it 21-0 with 3:42 left in the half. After the second Red Devils pick, Locklear found Bryant from 54 yards for a touchdown with 50 seconds left in the half; the extra point was blocked, and the Red Devils carried a 27-0 lead to the locker room.
In a scoreless second half, South Columbus turned the ball over on its first two drives with interceptions, then turned it over on downs early in the fourth quarter at the Red Devils' 5-yard line. Red Springs punted on its three completed drives before time expired during the fourth.
One point the Red Devils will look to improve moving forward is penalties; the Red Devils had 13 penalties for 156 yards in the game.
"That's definitely a down side of tonight; definitely too many penalties," Ches said. "We'll be watching the film and I'll be charting who did what and when and cleaning all that up this week in practice. This week has to be a tremendous week in practice. We've got a lot of stuff to clean up."
Red Springs now enters next week's showdown St. Pauls as an undefeated team. The game will be for the TRC title regardless of whether St. Pauls beats Fairmont on Monday, though a Bulldogs win over the Golden Tornadoes would add some spice to Friday's game as the Bulldogs would also enter with a perfect record.
"St. Pauls is a tremendous football team, tremendous coach, great athletes, solid program," Ches said. "It's going to be an absolute war, and I'm looking forward to it. We have to have a great week of practice, like I said, and we have to play our football and we have to just play Red Springs football, just be super-physical and let everything take care of itself."
Chris Stiles can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] You can follow him on Twitter at @StilesOnSports.