Seventy-First football aces passing test, stays undefeated

Seventy-First football faced a unique challenge Thursday night at Cape Fear.

For the first time this season, the Falcons were presented with an uptempo offense that loves to spread things out and sling the ball to its wide receivers.

Seventy-First didn’t just pass the test, the Falcons aced it in a 29-13 road win to stay undefeated.

“This is always a measuring stick for us,” Seventy-First coach Duran McLaurin said. “(Cape Fear’s coaches) did a good job preparing their kids, doing what they felt like they needed to do to stay in the game. I think our team definitely needed that look. It was good for us.”

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Offensively, Seventy-First (6-0, 3-0 United 8) stuck to its script with four rushing touchdowns and more than 300 yards on the ground. Junior running back Anthony Quinn Jr. led the effort with 195 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Jayden Shotwell, DeAndre Nance and Donavan Frederick also scampered into the end zone for the Falcons.

But this night belonged to the defense, which showed an ability to adjust in an area that contributed to Seventy-First's only loss of the 2021 season. In the 20-14 loss to J.H. Rose in the third round of the NCHSAA playoffs, it had four turnovers and allowed 245 passing yards with a pair of long touchdowns through the air.

On Thursday night, the Falcons took care of the ball against the Colts (4-2, 2-1) and snagged a pair of interceptions, keeping almost every pass in front of them without giving up a big play.

Senior defensive back Zachary Lewis had the first pick, and senior linebacker Raymond McCray pulled down the second interception in a two-takeaway first quarter.

“It helps us in the long run. All year long, we haven’t had a team that was always putting it in the air on us,” McCray said. “All week long, we already knew how they were gonna play. Coaches had us in the right spots, so we came out with the victory.”

Seventy-First defensive back Dakari Johnson (8) helped the defense in the Falcons' 29-13 win at Cape Fear on Thursday.
Seventy-First defensive back Dakari Johnson (8) helped the defense in the Falcons' 29-13 win at Cape Fear on Thursday.

McLaurin praised the communication of players on the back end of the defense, particularly senior safety Dakari Johnson. The Falcons broke up a crowd of passes and had several opportunities to reel in other interceptions.

“Those guys have been doing a great job in the secondary and our linebackers have been helping underneath, getting their hands on a lot of things,” McLaurin said.

“Raymond was special – he was all over the field. DJ was all over the field. Our pass rush, when we needed it, Melik (Thomas) and those guys, Hector (Bautista), it was just a great game for the defense. We needed it.”

It’s an effort McCray feels will make the Falcons even more dangerous as the games get tougher.

“After seeing how we played, I’m not mad at all,” he said. “Every day, every practice, we’re gonna get better and better. Everybody’s dogs.”

Staff writer Rodd Baxley can be reached at or @RoddBaxley on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: Seventy-First defense rises up in win at Cape Fear