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Mountain Island Charter's Running Game Dominates

Powerful Rushing Attack Propels Raptors Past Gryphons

The second round of the NCHSAA 1A West playoff bracket featured two teams from the same conference. The Mountain Island Charter Raptors hosted conference rival, Thomas Jefferson. The Raptors initially beat the Gryphons 31-13 in the third week of the regular season. However, that would be one of the games the Raptors had to forfeit later. Thomas Jefferson was hoping to earn an on-the-field victory tonight. That would be a tall task.

The Raptors struck first. On fourth down, the Raptors went for it and scored with a 38-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Holcomb to Eric Gallman II. Carson Pledger’s kick for the extra point gave the home team an early 7-0 lead. The Gryphons would strike back. They too went for it on fourth down and scored on the play. Nomi McMullens hit Maxx Robbins for a 17-yard touchdown pass. The extra point kick by Grant Hernandez tied the game.

The Gryphons forced the Raptors to punt on the ensuing drive. But they, themselves, had their drive stall. Aapri Washington stopped the Thomas Jefferson drive with an interception and the Raptors would capitalize. Freshman Elijah Burris put the Raptors back on top with a two-yard touchdown run. Pledger’s extra point was good. The Gryphons responded again with another McMullens pass to Robbins. This time it was from 15 yards out. The extra point would fail however.

It got worse before it got better for Jefferson as Burris would answer the score on the first play on the ensuing drive. He took it 66 yards for a touchdown. The extra point kick made it 21-13. Thomas Jefferson would not go away. Quarterback McMullens took it in himself for a two-yard touchdown run with just around a minute to go before half-time. The two-point conversion try failed and the score remained 21-19.

Thomas Jefferson got the ball to start the second half and they went to work. The Gryphons took the lead with another Nomi McMullens touchdown pass to Maxx Robbins. The 29-yard touchdown pass and Hernandez’s extra point kick put the Gryphons on top 26-21. But that would be the end of their fun.

It would be a Raptor onslaught from there. Aapri Washinton’s 51-yard touchdown run put Mountain Island Charter back on top 28-26. Thomas Jefferson came up empty on the next drive and had to put. They pinned the Raptors deep but it didn’t seem to matter. Terrell Hager extended the lead with a 95-yard touchdown run. The PAT failed, however. It would still be a one-score game. But not for long. Washington put the Raptors up by two scores with a 23-yard touchdown run. Pledger’s kick made it 41-26.

The Gryphons were not down for the count yet. Early in the fourth quarter, McMullens hit Robbins for a ten-yard touchdown pass. That was their fourth touchdown connection. Hernandez’s kick would cut the lead to eight points. That would be as close as the visiting team would get as the host Raptors shut the door on any comeback hopes.

Touchdown runs by Hager (57 yards) and Washington (72 yards) ended any comeback hopes. The Gryphons did put another touchdown on the board with a four-yard run by Miller Outten with less than five minutes to go. The onside kick was recovered by Mountain Island Charter and they would be able to run out the clock and seal the 54-40 victory.

Terrell Hager led the Raptors rushing attack with 275 yards and two touchdowns. Aapri Washington amassed 213 yards and three touchdowns. Elijah Burris rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Nomi McMullens led the Gryphons with 300 all-purpose yards (179 passing and 121 rushing), four passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown. Running-back Bill Lay amassed 89 yards rushing. Maxx Robbins hauled in all four of McMullens's touchdown passes. He and Tucker Greene combined for 154 of the receiving yardage.

"I think we got a lot of stuff to clean up defensively. I think offensively, we are clicking at the right time. I think if you key on one player on any situation, others will step up." said Raptors head coach Robert Washington "Our motto is next man up. We made it harder than it was supposed to be. Our guys came out with surprisingly low energy so we had to fire the boys up. The biggest thing is that we made adjustments. Our defensive staff was constantly challenging our defense."

"We were working on putting Aapri back at quarterback. It worked so we didn't go away from it. We tried to stay with the hot hand at the time." Washington said of his strategy "It was kind of like chess because we were moving some players around because we had to figure out what was the best matchup because watching film, I thought they would do one thing but they came out and did something totally different. Once we knew they were trying to get (Robbins) in the game, we put Aapri on him and he couldn't do anything else after that."

"Tonight the best team won." said Gryphons head coach Jerry Cash "Don't know if we can change a whole lot. Our kids played hard. We had a really good year. There will be another day. (McMullen) is just a sophomore. He's going to be a good player for us. (Bill Lay) is a junior. We have 20-something kids that are juniors that are coming back next year. We only lose six seniors on this team so we will be looking for a good year next year."

Mountain Island Charter will travel to Murphy next week. The Bulldogs beat Winston-Salem Prep 42-18. Thomas Jefferson finishes the season with a 10-3 record.

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