Part of the crowd that would swell to several thousand and fill Kerr Stadium to overflowing levels was still making its way inside last Friday night when the snowball that would become an avalanche started rolling downhill.
On the second play from scrimmage of the Reynolds-Erwin high-school football showdown, Warriors defensive back Jonathan Allen stepped in front of a pass from the Rockets’ Levi Ledford and returned an interception 42 yards for a 7-0 lead just 50 seconds in.
That started a wave of momentum the likes of which have seldom been seen on a football field around here, at least with two quality programs expected to be pretty evenly matched.
By the time the halftime horn sounded — mercifully so for Reynolds, looking like a staggered, beaten boxer hoping for the bell to signal the end of the round and a cessation of the pounding –Erwin had amassed 62 points in 24 minutes, including six touchdowns alone in the second quarter.
The final score was 69-28, but it was the first two quarters in which the Warriors (5-0, 1-0) built a 62-14 lead and showed how powerfully, how prolifically, they can make the scoreboard sizzle.
“It was pretty amazing,” said Erwin coach Mike Sexton, not given to over-inflating his own team.
“For me personally, in 25 years of this, I’ve never been part of a half of football that explosive, where everything went one way.”
Quarterback Austin Brown threw four touchdown passes in the first half, two to Allen.
Big-play specialist Kelman Simpson scored on a 20-yard run and a 57-yard punt return just 80 seconds apart to begin the second-quarter onslaught that produced a 34-0 lead less than 14 minutes into the game.
The defense added its second score of the half when C.C. Robinson fell on a fumble in the end zone, and Erwin’s assault ended with an 8-yard pass from Brown to Tyler Sullins 25 seconds before intermission.
“It was very surprising, because we knew Reynolds had a good team,” said running back/linebacker DeAngelo Collington, who had a 2-yard scoring run in the opening quarter.
“I remember thinking, ‘Wow! We are really beating them bad.'”
Warriors offensive lineman Colby Tochterman was also taken back by the lopsided halftime score.
“I thought Reynolds would give us more of a challenge,” he said. “They played hard, but we just jumped out on them and they couldn’t stop us. I think everyone was surprised at that.”
“It’s not like Reynolds is a bad team,” said Sexton. “Sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you.
“I do know it wasn’t luck. Our kids were prepared, ready to play.”
And what was the halftime message?
What does a coach say, beyond bravo, to a team that produced nine touchdowns and a 48-point lead?
“We reminded them of the Asheville-Reynolds game (in 2011, when the Cougars rallied from a 29-0 deficit to win 35-29),” said Sexton.
“And we talked about not letting up defensively. We maybe didn’t need to score many more points, but we knew Reynolds’ offense was capable of exploding like we did in the first half.”
After the teams combined for 56 second-quarter points (the Rockets had two touchdowns in between lining up for kickoff returns), neither squad scored in the third period, and the final quarter produced three touchdowns by some reserves.
Now firmly entrenched as the favorite to win the Mountain Athletic Conference, the Warriors don’t want to spend much more time savoring the past.
“Beating Reynolds gives us even more confidence,” Collington said.
“But we know that if we don’t keep working hard, somebody can beat us. We have to stay hungry.”