“Rhinehart to King Connection Keeps South Point in the Southwestern 2A Conference Race”
By: Anthony Perkins
Rutherfordton – In a Southwest Conference contest RS Central hosted South Point on Friday night and with both teams entering the contest with identical 2-1 conference records a win would be critical to stay in the hunt for a conference title and a potential spot in the playoffs. The RS Central Hilltoppers were playing their final home game of the season on “Senior Night” before closing out the regular season against Burns and Chase.
The visiting Red Raiders started the scoring on the first possession of the game with a 13-play, 61-yard drive that consumed nearly half of the first quarter. Devon King started that first drive under center and capped it off on a three-yard quarterback keeper. Carson Smith followed up with the point-after to give the Red Raiders a 7-0 lead that didn’t change until the second half. The Hilltoppers did challenge the lead on their first drive but it stalled inside Red Raider ten-yard line and a 25-yard field goal sailed wide to end the Hilltoppers first drive which consumed the remainder of the first quarter.
In the second quarter both teams moved the ball well however both teams were hampered by penalties and South Points Will Rhinehart picked off a Jaiden Coston pass to put a stop to another Hilltopper drive. The Red Raiders also missed a 42-yard field goal attempt as the clock went to all zeroes to bring the first half to an end.
When the second half cranked up a light rain had begun to fall and the Hilltoppers used less than three minutes to get in the scoring column thanks to a 65-yard run by Xavier Toms that capped off the 79-yard drive. Nick Trevitz added his first of two, point after kicks to even the score at 7-7. After both teams traded punts South Point took the lead again when fullback Naseem Jones scored on a 2-yard run that capped off a three play, 66-yard drive with less than two minutes left in the third quarter. Following the touchdown and hoping to catch the Hilltoppers napping, the Red Raiders attempted an on-side kick but the alert Hilltoppers fell on the ball at the South Point 49 gaining excellent field position.
Six plays later and only forty seconds into the fourth quarter, RS Central scored their second touchdown on a two-yard run by Ken Hines III and the extra point would have tied the game at 14-14. However, an encroachment penalty by South Point followed by a successful 2-point conversion run by Hines gave the homestanding Hilltoppers a 15-14 lead.
After the ensuing kickoff South Point started their next possession at their 41-yard line. It took only two plays; a 15-yard run by fullback Hunter Hogue and a 44-yard jaunt by Rhinehart to push the visitors back into the lead at 21-15 and there was still almost eleven minutes left in the game.
RS Central’s running attack steadily moved down the field on their next possession as they used nearly seven minutes of precious time on an 80-yard drive that Hines capped it off with a five-yard run. Trevitz added the extra point to give the Hilltoppers a 22-21 lead with only 3:47 remaining on the clock.
After the kick-off the Red Raiders were 65-yards away from the end-zone but they only needed a field goal for the lead. After five plays and an RS Central personal foul penalty the Red Raiders had advanced the ball only to the Hilltoppers 34. Facing a third and eleven and with clock already below 60 seconds, Will Rhinehart dropped back to pass and spotted Devon King sprinting down the right side who had gained a step on his defender. Rhinehart’s pass dropped over King’s left shoulder and fell into his hands as he tumbled into the end-zone with the winning points. King also converted a two-point conversion run for a 29-22 lead.
The Hilltoppers tried to mount a comeback but they ran out of downs after three incompletions and a quarterback sack. South Point went into the victory formation to run off the final three seconds before securing a very hard-fought victory over a very good RS Central squad.
South Point head coach, Adam Hodge was elated with his team’s victory and commented, “Both teams played their hearts out and it was a game where you hated to see either team lose. But I am so proud of my kids tonight. This team (RS Central) played us as tough as anyone has, they are really good and they wanted it too.”
Hilltopper head coach, Brad Hutchins was also proud of his team and the effort they put out for the evening. He said, “We’re making real progress with this offense but they (South Point) have been running it a lot longer than we have and they run it better than we do right now.” I also asked him what he thought was the main reason(s) for the marked improvement of his team over the last few years. His response was, “One reason is because we have some good leadership from some of our seniors and our team really has been hitting the weight room and (this is really big) I think they have bought into what we are trying to accomplish.”
Next week RS Central will travel to Burns and South Point will travel to Chase.