RAMSEUR — For the past couple of years, there have been many challengers to the Eastern Randolph High School varsity football team, teams that certainly had the capabilities to give the WIldcats a battle in their quest for a conference championship.
Yet, each and every time, the highly-regarded Wildcats turned back those challenges and most of the time very impressively.
Last Friday night was the latest chapter in this saga as the Southwestern Randolph High School Cougars, fresh off an emotional victory over county rival Asheboro High School, entered Burton Cates Stadium with high hopes. The Wildcats, as they have so often done these past few years with conference foes, dashed those hopes in a hurry.
Four SWR turnovers led to four ER touchdowns and the Wildcats grabbed a huge halftime lead and went on to meet its latest challenge with a 41-0 win over the Cougars on a night ER honored its 2023 Hall of Fame Class and honored the 1983 state championship team.
“We have great respect for Southwestern Randolph and all the schools in the conference,” ER coach Burton Cates said. “Our kids were so locked in, it being the first conference game. We started the non-conference season with a loss and we didn’t need to start the conference season with a loss. You don’t have to lose to reflect and our kids were focused.”
The Wildcats got off to a quick start when an interception resulted in a touchdown drive, which was capped by a short TD run by quarterback Carter Revelle.
A bad snap from punt formation on the Cougars’ next drive gave ER possession at the 17 and it took just a few plays for Lucas Smith to dart into the end zone from 5 yards out for a 14-0 lead before the end of the first quarter.
Then ER used a late second quarter blitz for breathing room.
After an ER fumble gave the ball back to SWR with 3:39 left, ER’s Nicah Taylor picked off a pass and dashed 35 yards for a touchdown, and when Smith bullied his way into the end zone for a two-point conversion, ER led 22-0 with 2:48 to go.
Then, the Wildcats forced a three-and-out and blocked the SWR punt. Kobe Walker picked it up at the 20 and rolled into the end zone for a 29-0 lead.
Finally, on the final play of the first half, Taylor picked off a deep pass at his own 5-yard line, maneuvered through some traffic and ended up in the end zone 95 yards away. ER led 35-0 at the break.
“A lot of things were going right for us and we felt like, and I felt like, and our players realized, we really improved from Game 1,” Cates said. “We’re not the same team that played the first week of the season, but you don’t want to peak in September.
“We have guys back and healthy and people are accepting their roles.”
The ER defense continued the shutout in the second half.
“We had the Hall of Fame inductions, we honored the 1983 team that won a state championship and there was a lot of spirit and our kids fed off that,” Cates said.
The win lifts ER, which now leads the overall series with SWR 28-2, to 5-1 on the season, 1-0 in Piedmont Athletic Conference play. SWR slips to 0-1 and 4-2 overall.
Revelle was 9-for-18 passing for 118 yards and a touchdown pass to Rayden West, who led the receivers with four catches for 76 yards. Smith had 14 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown.
Jentezen Cox led the Cougars’ rushing attack with 10 carries for 68 yards. Colton Law had five carries for 31 yards.
And now the Wildcats wait for the next challenge as the Trinity Bulldogs host ER Friday night.
“It’s a tough place to play,” Cates said about THS. “We’ll have to be ready.”
They most assuredly will be.