By Chris Benefield/Sports Correspondent
Junior running back D.J Pope outgained the entire Ragland offense as he led the homestanding Gaston Bulldogs to a dominant 28-0 victory over the Class 1A No. 10 Purple Devils on Friday (Aug. 28) at GHS.
Pope, making his first-ever start, bowled over the Ragland defense for 133 yards on 18 carries.
Pope’s production answered one of head coach Swane Morris’s two main question marks regarding his team’s 2015 debut.
“D.J. didn’t get to start any games last year, so I was really curious how he’d handle the ‘Friday Night Lights’ aspect of things,” Morris said.” I feel like he acquitted himself quite well in that department.”
Morris’s other preseason concern was about his defense, specifically how it would go about containing Ragland running back Jadon Killings.
“Killings is a great athlete, and they will try to line him up anywhere on the field to get him the ball where he can hurt you the most,” Morris said. “We worked all week on communicating to each other where he was, and tonight I feel like we contained him as much as we possibly could. You’re never going to completely stop somebody like that, but at least we kept him (and them) between the 20’s.”
Killings caught five passes for 58 yards and carried the ball eight times for 28 yards, giving him 86 of the Devils’ total of 127 yards.
The Bulldog offense dominated from the very start. After Gaston (1-0) forced a fumble on Ragland’s first drive, the ‘Dogs went 78 yards in 12 plays, consuming over seven minutes of clock time. Pope carried the ball four times for 32 yards during the drive. Quarterback Jordan Douglas completed a key third down pass to Kevin Hollingsworth before senior halfback Jashun Cammeron went four yards for one of his three touchdowns on the night.
Blake Thacker’s PAT made it 7-0 with 35 seconds left in the first quarter.
Gaston’s other time-consuming drive in the first half was thwarted by an interception of a halfback pass, so the teams went into the locker room with the Bulldogs holding a slim 7-0 lead.
Gaston’s Shay Presley returned the second half kickoff past midfield, and the ‘Dogs quickly went 49 yards in six plays, with Pope cashing in from the Ragland 5. A bad snap on the extra point attempt left the score at 13-0 with eight minutes to go in the third period.
Gaston put the game away on its next possession, going 55 yards in 14 plays while bleeding 8:16 off the clock. Cammeron putting the icing on the cake from the 1, and Pope ran in the two-point conversion for a 21-point lead with 7:19 left in the contest.
Cammeron, who finished with 72 yards on nine carries, later burst around right end for a 35-yard touchdown.
“I’m really proud of Jashun,” said Morris. “He’s a senior and he acts like it. I also can’t say enough about Jordan Douglas. Along with being talented, he’s also a great game manager. I’m a little conservative, and he always keeps his head and gets us in the right formations [and] making the necessary adjustments. It’s comforting to have a ‘coach on the field.”
Morris noted that the real season starts next week.
“We have (Class 2A, Region 7 opponent) Section coming in here next Friday. They’re always solid, and they were off tonight, so they were able to be here to scout us. I’m sure we’ll have our hands full with them, but right now I’m just happy to be 1-0.”