Penalties, turnovers mar Pam Pack in conference opener
Published 12:26 am Saturday, September 23, 2017
SNOW HILL — Penalties and turnovers hurt Washington’s football team, but penalties almost gave the Pam Pack a chance to win Friday night.
A late interception in the Greene Central end zone helped the Rams hold off Washington 22-15 in the 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference opener for both teams.
With barely three minutes remaining in regulation, Greene Central running back Javon Edwards had a potential game-clinching 51-yard touchdown run up the middle called back by a chop block. The penalty turned second-and-8 into second-and-23, causing the Rams to punt back to the Pam Pack.
Trailing by seven with 2:47 to go, Washington quarterback Frederick Holscher hit Ja’quez Ruffin on a quick out for 31 yards. The play was called back on a holding penalty.
“We had some crucial penalties in some key situations,” Washington coach Jon Blank said. “It seemed like every big play we had, it came back.”
The Pam Pack compounded that infraction with an unsportsmanlike penalty, leaving with a first-and-30 that would have been worse had the latter been 15 yards instead of half the distance to the goal line.
Three subsequent plays netted Washington two yards. On fourth-and-28 with 1:49 left, Holscher launched a prayer that was answered as Dawson Elks came down with the ball for a 41-yard pass play despite tight coverage.
“Holscher made a great pass to that receiver,” Greene Central coach Allen Wooten said. “That was perfect coverage. That was a great play by a good player. You can’t be mad about that.
“We did the right thing. They just did the right thing a little better.”
Greene Central then made life more difficult for itself with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to put the ball on the Rams’ 31.
“The penalty after that … you can’t throw 15 yards on the end of that,” Wooten said. “But their penalty was probably the same thing — a kid who got upset about a situation.”
Two incompletions by Washington were bailed out as Greene Central was whistled for a holding penalty to move the ball to the 21.
But two plays later, Holscher was intercepted for the third time, this one by Taboris Bynum. Tyreke Speight had the first two picks for Greene Central.
“Taboris and Tyreke are our two seniors in the defensive backfield who have been on the varsity for three years. so it doesn’t surprise that those are the two making the plays,” Wooten said. “Tyreke has been all-conference strong safety for two years. He’s probably the best defensive player I’ve had since I’ve been here.”
“Our guys battled, and they did deserve a chance to close it out,” Blank said. “That’s all you ask for in a game like this. Freddie, I thought, played a great game and just made a bad decision at the end. I hate that because that’s what he’ll remember at the end instead of the good performance that he had.”
Washington committed 10 penalties for 60 yards. The Pam Pack helped Greene Central on the lone scoring drive of the first half, a 16-play, 77-yard march aided by two offside penalties. The first turned a third-and-4 into a first down and the second made a fourth-and-6 into a 4th-and-1 at the Washington 4, where Javon Edwards finished with a run into the end zone.
Washington will return home to play North Lenoir next Friday.
“I feel like we played a more complete game than any game we played this year on all three sides of the ball,” Blank said. “North Lenoir is going to be a battle for us. But I think our kids will see when they watch the film. They’ve got to be proud of the effort that they gave in all three phases of the game.”
Less than five minutes into the second half, Ja’Quez Ruffin had a punt return for 75 yards for a touchdown called back to the Greene Central 15. Four plays later, Hykeem Ruffin bulled in for a 3-yard touchdown run. A conversion pass to Ja’quez Ruffin from quarterback Frederick Holscher knotted the game at 8-8.
Washington watched Greene Central take the opening kickoff and march 72 yards. But on consecutive plays at the Pam Pack 1, Washington’s Kevon Langley dropped the Rams’ Javon Edwards for a four-yard loss, then Ka’ci Foreman picked off Greene Central quarterback Jackson Batchelor in the end zone.
The Pam Pack defense came up big again on the Rams’ next possession, as Mohammed Ackbar sacked Batchelor for an eight-yard loss on third-and-6 at midfield.
But a lack of discipline aided Greene Central’s next drive. The Rams went 77 yards in 16 plays, aided by two offside calls on Washington’s defense. One of them turned a third-and-4 into a first down, and the other cut down a fourth-and-9 from the Pam Pack into a fourth-and-1 from the 4, where Edwards dove in from four yards out for the lone score of the first half. Edwards added the run conversion for an 8-0 advantage.
Washington’s best offensive threats in the first half were on the opening march, which went for 50 yards but stalled at the Greene Central thanks to a pair of false-start penalties. The Pam Pack got the ball back in Rams territory in the last seconds of the half, but Speight picked off quarterback Frederick Holscher on the last play before intermission.