Offense, defense and special teams — these are the three phases to win a football game and on Thursday night, North Caroline was good at all of them.
The Bulldogs (4-1) were looking for their fourth straight win on the season against the James M. Bennett Clippers (2-3), who recently came off of a big win against Snow Hill.
North Caroline had a trio of running backs that prevailed in their 42-25 victory over the Clippers — among them were Kenny Jackson rushing for 176 yards and scoring a touchdown, Rodney Thomas rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns of his own and had a 69 yard punt return and David Bailey garnered 105 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns.
“I just love my line,” Jackson said. “My line blocked amazingly, big holes, my whole line; we just did a great job tonight.”
It did not take long for North Caroline to establish early momentum as a consistent dose of Kenny Jackson and Rodney Thomas marched their offense down the field to cap off an eight play, 56-yard-drive.
Thomas was handed the ball on a jet sweep and a good block on the edge allowed him to turn the corner and rush for 19 yards for a touchdown, the ensuing point after was good.
Bennett was able to answer the Bulldogs’ score in the second half after a highly defensive first quarter. Prior to that, both offenses would have established drives of their own but would stall out with turnovers on downs.
The Clippers found themselves on the North Caroline 31-yard line but were having trouble moving the ball into scoring position. An incomplete pass and a holding penalty on the Clippers did not bode well for their scoring aspirations, but that did not phase quarterback Jacob Larmore and wide receiver Michael Jean-Charles.
On fourth and 10, Larmore was set in the shotgun and was looking to pass. Jean-Charles was in single coverage on the outside as Larmore slung the ball in the air. Jean-Charles ducked under the cornerback to make the catch and to tie the game at 7.
“We stepped up tonight, my line gave me some time and I trusted throwing the ball out there to our receivers and letting them do their thing,” Larmore said.
Larmore would go on to throw two more touchdown passes for 161 yards going 11 for 31. Jean-Charles also had another receiving touchdown of his own with 91 receiving yards on the night.
Entering the fourth quarter, Bennett trailed by four scores but LJ Carter was hoping to narrow that deficit. A pass interference penalty set the Clippers up with a 1st and Goal at the Bulldogs 10-yard line. Then, Carter took a pitch to the outside and darted into the end zone for a score.
He’d notch another touchdown when Larmore threw his third touchdown pass of the night, but the damage had already been done — the Clippers were unable to mount a comeback.
“We’ll be back, I guarantee that,” Bennett head coach Hoot Gibson said. “We’re in the ball games, we just need to find a way to get over the hump and execute every play.”
Bennett aims to go back to .500 on the season with a win next week against Queen Annes. As for the Bulldogs, they take on Stephen Decatur.
“Were 4-1 in the first half of the season and that gives us an opportunity to compete and get in the playoffs,” North Caroline head coach James McCormick said. “We’ve put ourselves in a position where each game is going to count and where can compete and try to get in (the postseason).