UNC commit Rose had big game against Mustangs
By Carey Phillips
Even though Smoky Mountain was seeded fourth and South Point was seeded 13th, SM Coach Ricky Brindley knew his team was going against a very athletic team in the first round of Friday’s state 2-AA playoffs.
“I knew what we were getting into when I saw the draw,” he said.
He realized the Red Raiders athletic ability increased in pre-game workouts.
“When we walked out there and saw number 5 was playing, we knew that was going to make things extremely difficult when it came to stopping them,” he said. “If anybody wonders what a Division I athlete looks like, that’s a prime example.”
He was referring to South Point wide receiver Ray Rose. The North Carolina commit had not played in several weeks due to a disciplinary issue, according to Brindley, but the coach wasn’t surprised Rose was in uniform Friday. He had a big part in South Point’s 42-35 win.
Rose made his presence felt on the Red Raiders’ first series when he caught a 34-yard pass on fourth-and-7 to set up a touchdown.
“It was an incredible play by him when it came to the route he ran,” Brindley said. “It was a well-thrown ball. There wasn’t much we could have done about it.”
Rose also had a 73-yard touchdown run when he broke a tackle and raced down the sideline.
“We had a couple of kids over pursue and he cut it back,” Brindley said. “Then he ran through an arm tackle. You can’t do that against people like that.”
A broken tackle on a 60-yard kickoff return led to another Raider TD.
“It was the same thing on the long kickoff return,” the coach aid. “We had (Devon King) hemmed up. He made a few of us miss because he ran through arm tackles.”
Special teams were a factor throughout the game. The Mustangs (8-4) scored on a blocked punt, but they fumbled a kickoff and South Point tried and recovered an onside kick.
Despite a few big plays, the Mustang defense played well for the most part.
“We did exactly what we wanted to do and that was to stop them from the inside out,” Brindley said. “We needed to be able to play the fullback and veer and force them to get it on the perimeter and pitch it.”
The game went down to the final possession.
“I could not have been prouder of the resiliency our team showed,” he said. “There was an opportunity to roll over down 35-14, and they didn’t. They continued to fight and put forth great effort. I was so proud those kids and how hard they played.”
Dustin Stephens scored three touchdowns for the Mustangs and gained 178 yards in 23 carries.
“I was so proud of him, and I was also extremely proud of our offensive line being able to line up and basically maul a team of that caliber,” Brindley said.
Will Frady finished his career as SM’s all-time leading rusher with 3,346 yards. He surpassed 1,600 yards this year, and Stephens went over 1,500.
“Will and Dustin’s rushing totals and what we were able to accomplish on the ground were extremely impressive,” Brindley said.
“We accomplished a lot this season as a team,” he said. “I’m very proud of this team and the effort they showed on a daily basis starting in January when we started weights. They gave their best effort every single day.”