Oct 25, 2008
RALEIGH — The fireworks have returned to Leesville Road High School - literally.
As the final minutes ticked off the clock Friday night in Leesville's 24-0 rout of Millbrook, a lone firework struggled to make it up through the rain. However, the fireworks on the field weren't hampered by the wet conditions at all.
The opening kick off set the mood of the game for Leesville Road and Millbrook.
Taylor Bucklin's kick came down, slipped through the hands of a Millbrook kick returner, and was picked up by sophomore Ryan Mangum. After scooping up the ball, Mangum took off towards the end zone, and Leesville Road thought they had the first points of the ball game.
"You can't draw it up much better than that," Leesville Road head coach David Green said of the opening kick off. "You get something like that to start the game and it kind of sets the tone for everything that comes afterward."
However, high school football rules state that the kick off cannot be advanced by the kicking team, so Leesville Road took over deep in Millbrook's territory - a site that became familiar to spectators in attendance.
The Millbrook defense appeared to have stopped the Pride, but on fourth and 5, quarterback Jake Groeschen hit Gordon Martin for a 16-yard gain, one of only two completions on the night for Leesville Road.
Seconds later, Zach Gentry got his first of two touchdown runs, and after Bucklin's point-after went through the uprights, Leesville Road had the 7-0 lead less than two-minutes into the contest.
The ensuing kickoff did not result in a Leesville Road possession, instead Millbrook's offense got a chance to get on the field for the first time all night.
Millbrook ate up a lot of clock on their first possession, something that is not typical of the Wildcat offense, and Millbrook faced a fourth and 6 situation just inside Leesville Road territory. In an attempt to pick up the six-yards, Brian Kass hit Kuwon Eldridge on a swing pass, but Eldridge was stopped well of the first down, and Leesville Road got the ball back with four-minutes left.
Both teams had good games defensively, and for almost 15-minutes of game time, the teams were giving the ball back-and-forth to one another.
With less than two-minutes to go in the half, though, Groeschen recorded his final completion of the game. Zach Greene was open on the sidelines, and the senior pulled in a 31-yard pass, bringing the Pride to the Millbrook one-yard line.
On the next play, Mangum used a second effort to hammer the ball into the end zone on the ground, as Leesville Road pushed ahead, 14-0, just in time for the break.
Millbrook came out of the locker room energized, and as their defense took the field to start the third quarter, they seemed to have new life. The Wildcats held Leesville Road to a three-and-out on their first possession, and Millbrook's offense got the ball back after a Pride punt.
On first down, Kass stepped up in the pocket and delivered a pass to Michael Thornton to pick up a first down. Millbrook was operating in the shotgun formation, though, and on the next play a bad snap went over the head of Kass and was covered up by Leesville Road.
Once again, the Leesville Road offense found themselves deep in Millbrook territory.
The Wildcats' defense stepped up to the challenge on fourth and 23 from the 28-yard line, as Nick Murad broke up a long pass intended for Cameron Todd.
The Millbrook offense, who was scoring more than 40-points per game going into the conference battle Friday, struggled all night against the Leesville Road defense. After putting together a solid string of plays, the drive stalled, and with 3:57 left in the third quarter, Millbrook turned the ball over on downs on the Leesville Road 38-yard line.
On their new possession, the Pride got big carries from Gentry, and after getting into field goal range, Bucklin hit a 29-yard field goal to put Leesville up 17-0 over Millbrook with just 15 seconds left in the quarter.
Millbrook's offense got the ball back, and on the first play of the fourth quarter, Kass threw his first of two interceptions. Mangum picked the pass off for Leesville Road, and the Pride's offense began the task of chewing up the clock.
With 4:08 left in the game, Gentry broke a 31-yard run straight threw the Millbrook defense to give Leesville Road their 24-0 lead.
"Our defense just played tremendous football, but you know, they've played well all year," Leesville Road head coach David Green said after the game. "They got after it, they played hard, they forced turnovers, and the offense took advantage of some of those turnovers and put it in the end zone."
The defense for Leesville Road did what no team has been able to do against Millbrook all season - stop them.
Leesville Road held the Millbrook offense to just 186-yards of total offense, and only 65-yards came through the air.
"[The Leesville Road defense] played great tonight. We had a couple of drives going early and we fumbled the ball," Millbrook coach Clarence Inscore said after the game. "Our mistakes led to 14-points for them."
While Leesville Road advances to 9-1 on the season headed into their off-week, the loss drops Millbrook out of the conference championship race. Inscore didn't seem too concerned about where his team is going after tonight, though. "We're still a good football team, we didn't play like it tonight, but we are a good football team."
Green thinks Millbrook is a good football team too, admitting after the game that he wasn't expecting the large margin of victory Friday night. "I thought it would be closer than this, but I'll take. I'll sure take it," Green said smiling.