Rose season comes to muddy end in first round of playoffs

JH Rose lost to Eastern Guilford in the first round of the state playoffs Friday, ending the Rampants' football season. (252Buzz file photo from Rose-South Central game on Sept. 21, 2018 by Bill Hudson)

By Mike Grizzard

GIBSONVILLE -- J.H. Rose’s hopes of making a deep run in the Class 3-AA playoffs sank deep in the mud of Tommy Grayson Stadium in a 52-26 first-round loss to Eastern Guilford on a chilly Friday night.

The Rampants, hampered early by penalties and field position, trailed just 17-7 at the half, but the Wildcats forced three third-quarter turnovers and took command with a 28-point outburst. Rose found itself in as much as a 45-7 hole before surging in the final quarter.

“There were glimpses that they wanted to give up at times, but they did a good job of not doing that,” Rose head coach Dave Wojtecki said. “That just shows what kind of kids we have at J.H. Rose.”

The Rampants, seeded 10th, finish 8-4 after a 3-8 record in 2017. The seventh-seeded Wildcats (10-2), making their sixth straight playoff appearance, advance to take on rival and No. 2 seed Southeast Guilford, a 21-8 winner over Cape Fear.

Eastern Guilford controlled much of Friday’s game -- played on a saturated turf due to heavy rain Thursday -- with a dominant defense, big plays from its special teams and splendid field position throughout the night. The Wildcats started 10 of their first 12 possessions in Rose territory and finished with an average starting position of the Rampants’ 47. Rose’s average starting position was its 31.

The Rampants managed just 35 yards on the ground against a defense surrendering an average of 14.3 points.

Senior quarterback Grant Charles Jarman completed 16 of 32 passes for 208 yards in his final game at Rose, tossing four touchdown passes to give him 55 for his career. He capped off his final game with a 66-yard touchdown pass to freshman Michael Allen on the game’s final play. Jarman, under pressure much of the night from a blitzing Eastern Guilford defense, also was picked off three times in the pivotal third quarter.

Eastern Guilford sophomore quarterback Kamell Smith also tossed four touchdown passes to four different receivers -- covering 23, 25, 33 and 48 yards. He was picked off by Jashaune Lowe and Wesley Shade in the first half. The Wildcats also coughed up a pair of fumbles in the second half.

Lowe’s interception off a tipped ball by Tyrone King helped Rose dodge an early Eastern Guilford threat after a return of the opening kickoff to the Rampants’ 37. The Wildcats were quickly back in business after a three-and-out Rose series and drove 46 yards in nine plays, taking a 7-0 lead on a 3-yard run by Darrell Roberts and Collin Smith’s kick.

The Rampants answered with a methodical 18-play, 80-yard march, converting a pair of third downs and benefiting from a pass interference call on fourth down. Jarman flipped a 1-yard pass to Zane Noles on fourth down, and Shade tacked on the kick for a 7-7 tie,

Eastern Guilford needed just one play to respond after Cameron Myers returned the kickoff 87 yards to the Rose 4. Sophomore Hezekiah Newby ran it in on his first carry on the night for a 14-7 lead.

Rose could not cash in Shade’s interception with 6:05 left in the half, and Collin Smith connected from 44 yards out for a 17-7 lead at the half.

The Rampants’ fortunes quickly turned in the third period when Jarman’s first pass skipped off the fingertips of Noles and into the hands of Eastern Guilford’s Justin Matthews. Kamell Smith then hooked up with Matthews on third down for a touchdown and Collin Smith ran in the two-point conversion for a 25-7 lead.

After a Rose punt, Kamell Smith threw a 23-yard TD pass to Adam Akins, then teamed up with Damon Coleman for another score after the Wildcats recovered a fumble. Coleman put Eastern Guilford up 45-7, coming up with an interception and then scoring on a short run.

An Alex Gowda interception at the Rose 21 put the Wildcats on the verge of putting the running clock into effect (enforced with a 42-point margin), but Elic Haddock scooped up a fumble and returned it to the Eastern Guilford 20. Jarman cashed in the turnover with a 30-yard pass to Ethan Boyer, pulling Rose within 45-13.

The Rampants struck again to close the gap to 45-20 early in the fourth quarter on Jarman’s 16-yard pass to Noles, set up by a diving 34-yard catch by senior Ben Harris. Eastern Guilford responded, scoring on Nic Cheeley’s 48-yard catch and run after hauling in a pass from Kamell Smith.

The Rampants kept attacking until the final second, scoring on Jarman’s pass to Allen.

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.