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Southwestern Randolph's Nathan Ellis runs the ball down to the goal line against Asheboro on Friday at Lee J. Stone Stadium.   Eric Abernathy/Randolph Hub

Ellis’ 5 TDs lead SWR past AHS

ASHEBORO — It’s been nearly a week since Southwestern Randolph High School captured a victory over Asheboro High School in the latest chapter of the crosstown football rivalry.


But some games stay with a team or player for a long time and for the Cougars’ Nathan Ellis, last Friday night’s 32-13 victory was one of those game’s he’ll remember long after he graduates.


Ellis scored five touchdowns in the Cougars’ fourth straight win over the Blue Comets in the storied rivalry and even as SWR prepares for its Piedmont Athletic Conference opener this Friday night at Eastern Randolph, that performance still resonates for the Cougars and their fans.


“We have focused all week after Coach lit us up on Monday and we had the intensity in practice and Coach told us what we had to do and we went out and did it,” Ellis said after rushing for 110 yards in a rushing attack that saw the Cougars register nearly 300 total yards. “The first quarter, a bunch of us got into it (with the offensive line), saying it’s y’all. The run game is all about the offensive line. They did it.”


Led by offensive lineman Ben Harris, Easton Gravely, Victor Rodriguez, Kam Carter and Damon Mobley, the Cougars, who fell behind 7-0 on a 62-yard scoring strike from Logan Laughlin to Elijiah Woodle on the Blue Comets’ first play of the game, opened holes for running backs Jentezen Cox, Owen Whelan, Colton Law and Ellis, who bullied their way down field.


“We were very disappointed last week,” Baxter said about a 32-6 loss to Albemarle in which the Bulldogs threw numerous go routes and the Albemarle receivers easily slipped past the SWR secondary for huge gains. “For whatever reason, we were complacent, weren't focused. We had some wake up calls. Sometimes you can have that wake up call during the game, but sometimes you have to take that defeat. Kids are kids and they don’t learn the lesson unless something happens. They took a loss and we challenged them on Monday that we had to be ready to play.


“I really think the rivalry had something to do with tonight,” Baxter continued. “There was a lot going on, the rivalry, Homecoming, the Jumbotron. We had to stay focused and if you’re at Southwestern Randolph and you can’t stay focused when you play Asheboro, you don’t need to be going to Southwestern Randolph.”


The victory lifted the Cougars to 4-1 on the season.


While the Blue Comets’ beautiful new Jumbotron debuted, the Cougars certainly addressed their defensive passing woes from a week ago, but only after the long TD pass on AHS’ first play from scrimmage put the Cougars in an early hole.


“They can throw it,” Baxter said. “They beat us on the first play and we knew that was going to be their game plan. Woodle is electric and they have three or four receivers who can go. We needed to take the deep pass away and make them run. I’m so proud that after that first play, we continued to play. Our defensive line was the advantage for us. Actually, we controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.”


The Cougars played a prevent defense for much of the game with four defensive backs lined up deep in the defensive backfield.


Ellis scored on a 13-yard run and, with the two-point conversion, SWR took an 8-7 lead with 3:19 to go in the first. TD runs of 4 yards and 1 yard for Ellis gave SWR a 20-7 halftime advantage before AHS started working underneath and used a 4-yard TD run by Quincey Lee to pull to within 20-13 late in the third quarter.


But the Cougars went on two long scoring drives, culminating with a 38-yard scoring burst from Ellis and a 25-yard TD run, which put the game away with 2:28 to play.


“I’m ecstatic right now, just so excited,” Ellis said.


The Blue Comets, who won 26 of the first 27 games in the series before losing the past four encounters, have plenty of work to do before opening the Mid-Piedmont Conference Friday at Oak Grove. The loss leaves AHS 1-4 on the season.


“They were more physical than us and we are not doing things we are coached all week to do,” AHS coach Calvin Brown said. “When you go over things in practice all week long and you don’t do it in the game, we’re just not a good football team right now. They gave us the opportunity to run the ball and we fumbled and we couldn’t pass protect long enough to get the ball underneath. Right now we are not a physical football team. We shy away from contact and this is not a game for shying away from contact. We have to get tougher mentally and physically.”