JH Rose running back Grant Humphreys had a career high 111 yards rushing in the Rampants' win over Wilmington Laney Aug. 24.
By Mike Grizzard
J.H. Rose head coach Dave Wojtecki knows two games are a small sample size to determine just how much his defense has improved this year. But he certainly likes the results he has seen so far.
The Rampants manhandled its second Wilmington opponent in their home opener on a pleasant Friday night, allowing less than 200 total yards for the second straight game in cruising to a 34-6 non-conference victory. Rose limited the Bucs (0-2) to 176 yards a week after yielding just 155 in a 49-6 rout of defending state champion New Hanover.
“I’m definitely pleased with our defense,” Wojtecki said. “You give up 12 points in two weeks. We haven’t done that in a while. It’s nice to not have to score 60 or 70 every game.”
Rose did not hold an opponent below 20 points last year in a season in which it gave up an average of 43.9 points per game and came into Friday’s game having allowed double-digit points in 29 of its last 30 games. The Rampants had not held consecutive opponents to single digits since a string of five in a row to open the 2013 season (34-7 over Athens Drive, 6-3 over Laney, 34-6 over Nash Central, 21-7 over Rocky Mount and 59-7 over Kinston).
Laney picked up the first offensive touchdown against Rose’s defense this year with 1:21 to go in the half, scoring on a 1-yard sneak by quarterback Sherod Sidbury to get within 14-6. New Hanover’s only touchdown last week came on a fumble recovery.
“The defense, they work their butts off every day,” Rose senior quarterback Grant Charles Jarman said. “Going out there and giving up six today and zero at New Hanover, that’s something that no one would have thought of going into the season except us. We’ve just got to keep working hard.”
Junior defensive lineman Greg Kuhn, who turned in his second solid performance, agreed.
“Everybody out there is doing their job, and we put each other in positions to make plays, and we see the results,” he said. “... We still know we have to get better every week. We can’t settle for where we are right now.”
Rose needed the defensive effort Friday until the offense came to life in the second half behind Jarman, senior running back Grant Humphreys and senior receiver Wesley Shade. Jarman completed his last six passes to finish 13 of 20 for 128 yards with scoring strikes of 28 and 25 yards to Shade and 4 yards to Humphreys.
Rose amassed 245 yards rushing yards behind a career-high 111 from Humphreys, who capped his night with an electrifying, zig-zagging 45-yard touchdown run with 24.3 seconds left in the third quarter.
“I’m going to give all the credit to David Sawyer and Phifer Ozimek,” Humphreys said. “They gave two perfect blocks on that, which opened it right up.”
His 4-yard touchdown catch came on a third-down play with 8:55 left in the first half. Jarman could not find an open receiver in the end zone, then turned and flipped a pass to Humphreys, who slipped through the tackle attempt of Cody Neil and scored.
“Before the play I told GC if something goes wrong, it’s going to be open, and I guess during the play he remembered it,” Humphreys said.
“He’s my check-down a lot,” Jarman said. “That’s what the running back is for. He does good there and had two touchdowns tonight. He’s rolling right now. I hope he can keep that up.”
Jarman and the 6-foot-4 Shade teamed up on Rose’s first two possessions of the second half, exploiting one-on-one coverage against 5-foot-9 cornerback Dymon Parker. On a third-and-7 from the 25, Shade snared a pass on a bubble screen and darted to the end zone for a 20-6 lead. On the next possession, Shade got free on a post pattern and hauled in the pass just before the free safety could converge to break up the play.
“We had the match-up on the corner,” Jarman said. “He kind of played it different than in the first half, and then we took advantage of it on that screen, then took advantage of it when he bit on the screen and headed for the post.”
Jarman capped a 12-play, 65-yard drive to open the game, scoring on a 1-yard sprint around left end for a 7-0 lead. The Rampants converted a fourth-down play on their next series, but a 10-play drive stalled at the 31 after a holding penalty.
A 10-yard ramble by Storm James on a fake punt kept a second-quarter drive alive, and Humphreys cashed it in with his 4-yard catch.
A 66-yard interception return for an apparent touchdown by Silas James -- one of three turnovers forced by Rose -- was wiped out by a penalty, and Rose settled for a 14-6 lead at the half.
“We struggled early on offense,” Wojtecki said. “We were just trying to force some things. I think the guys started believing what people tell them all day long about how great they are and Rose is back. We’ve got to play hard every week. We struggled last year. We’ve got to play hard every single week.”
Mike Grizzard of Winterville has more than 30 years of experience as a writer for both print and digital publications in the areas of sports, business, news, faith and personal profiles. Contact Mike at 252-916-4206.