The J.H. Rose Rampants defeated conference foe Eastern Wayne Monday night. (252Buzz file photo by Bill Hudson)
By Mike Grizzard
NEW HOPE -- J.H. Rose head coach Dave Wojtecki’s message to his team after a marathon first half Monday night focused on one thing: finish strong.
The Rampants didn’t quite deliver the kind of knockout Wojtecki wanted, but they did enough to walk away with a 42-26 Eastern Carolina 3-A/4-A Conference win over Eastern Wayne, keeping alive their hopes of playing in the postseason. Rose (6-3) carries a 3-2 conference record into its regular-season finale on Friday at home against New Bern.
“The second half I didn’t think we did a very good job at all of coming out and finishing the game,” Wojtecki said. “We don’t have that killer instinct, and we’ve got to develop that if we want to be able to go far in the playoffs.”
The Rampants did show some balance on offense in an offensive duel in which the two teams combined to throw 69 passes and amass 946 total yards. Rose senior quarterback Grant Charles Jarman completed 20 of 40 passes for 264 yards, and senior running back Grant Humphreys rushed for 100 yards on 14 carries to lead a ground game that churned out 246 yards on 43 attempts. He also had one reception for 10 yards.
“I didn’t realize we threw it that much,” Humphreys said. “In hindsight, now that I think about it, I guess we did. I didn’t run it that much. We saw some stuff that was going to be open and was going to be open all night, so we were taking it as much as we could.”
Jarman repeatedly tested the Warriors’ secondary with deep passes and connected on four of at least 25 yards, including a 42-yarder to Wesley Shade to give the Rampants a 35-12 lead. He teamed up with senior Ben Harris 10 times for 135 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown.
“We try to take what they’re giving us, and we thought they were giving us some throws tonight,” Wojtecki said.
Eastern Wayne (3-5, 1-3 ECC), limited to 78 yards rushing, managed to hang around by virtue of the big play. Junior quarterback Desmond Vaughn fired touchdown passes of 55 and 60 yards to senior Demonta Edwards and connected with sophomore Brandon Joyner for a 62-yard score. He finished 14-of-29 for 358 yards but was intercepted twice, the last of which was returned 50 yards for a touchdown by Silas James with 2:11 to play..
The Warriors also coughed up one fumble.
“Our defense played well,” Wojtecki said. “Just some big plays that we gave up and just some stupid mistakes that we made defensively.”
None of those mistakes came until Rose built a 14-0 lead with a quick start. The Rampants stayed aggressive, gambling on fourth down on four straight possessions and converting twice to lead to touchdowns.
Brice Bizzell put Rose up 7-0, capping a seven-play drive on the opening series with a 4-yard score on a sweep around right end. Vaughn ran out of bounds 3 yards short of a first down on Eastern Wayne’s first possession, and Angus Dove hooked a 27-yard field goal attempt -- the first of several kicking game blunders for the Warriors,
Justin Perkins forced a fumble to set up the Rampants’ second touchdown. Humphreys powered ahead for 4 yards to convert a fourth-and-3 then sprinted through a huge hole for a 45-yard score and a 14-0 lead.
“The offensive line did a great job on that one,” Humphreys said. “That was not me. Anybody could have run that through. Coach (Robert) Compton could have run that one through. That was totally the offensive line so credit to them.”
After Vaughn threw a 60-yard pass to Edwards to get the Warriors within 14-6, Jarman converted a fourth-and-4 with a 6-yard keeper then hit Harris on a 13-yard fade pattern for a 21-6 lead.
The Warriors needed just three plays to answer on a Vaughn 62-yarder to Joyner, but Humphreys struck again with a spinning, tackle-breaking 12-yard run for a 28-12 lead.
“That was our new formation where we have three running backs and our running backs did a real good job of blocking on that one,” Humphreys said. “Also the center pulls on that so we have three lead blockers. They all did a fantastic job.”
The Rampants’ offense sputtered in the second half until Jarman found Shade open in the middle of the Eastern Wayne secondary for a 42-yard touchdown. After the Warriors got within 35-20 and forced a Rose punt, James sealed it with his interception at midfield and sprint to the end zone.
Rose now turns its attention to Senior Night and struggling New Bern (2-7, 1-2) that travels to Charles B. Aycock on Tuesday and will be playing three games in a span of nine days. The Bears fell 51-0 to Pamlico County on Thursday.
“Now we’ve got to tune and get ready for a New Bern team that is not the New Bern of old, but they’re still a very talented group, and they have nothing to lose,” Wojtecki said. “Those teams are the scary teams.”
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.