North Moore football head coach Andrew Carrouth worried about his team’s focus ahead of Friday’s game against Seaforth, as homecoming festivities created potential distractions.
But in route to a 48-7 victory over the Hawks, the Mustangs started the homecoming celebrations early after locking in and playing their brand of football the right way.
The Mustangs took care of business behind an explosive 41-point first half and a career night from senior running back Jakarey Gillis.
“I really liked the first half,” Carrouth said. “We had a couple of miscues here and there, but I thought we really did a good job of executing.”
North Moore’s offense found success out the gate with its offensive line controlling the line of scrimmage and creating lanes for the Mustangs’ run game. On the first play of the game, senior running back Kolby Ritchie broke free for 29 yards, and senior Nathan Rogers finished the drive a few plays later with a four-yard rushing touchdown.
And once Gillis got going, there was no slowing down the Mustangs’ rushing attack.
For his first touchdown of the night, Gillis sprinted untouched for 89 yards to the end zone, giving North Moore a 14-0 lead with the extra point.
After senior quarterback Nate Dyer capitalized on a Seaforth fumble with a touchdown pass to senior Joseph Ritter, Gillis put his speed on display again with a 29 yard score just before the end of the first quarter.
He scored once more in the first half with a five-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter, which pushed the Mustangs’ lead to 34.
“First half, (offensive) linemen did their jobs,” Gillis said. “Wide open holes, take what you get and go, man.”
Gillis scored again in the fourth quarter and finished the game with a career-high 244 rushing yards, averaging just under 14 yards a carry. He rushed for over 200 yards in the first half alone.
Now with 14 rushing touchdowns on the season, Gillis is just two shy of breaking his single-season career-high of 15 touchdowns, which he set last year. His production has been impressive, considering he suffered a severe knee injury ahead of his sophomore year and ran with his right shoulder wrapped in athletic tape after it popped out of place in the Mustangs’ recent win over Bartlett-Yancey.
“(Gillis) worked his tail off in the weight room and got faster than he was last year,” Carrouth said. “He’s always been able to put his shoulders down and run through people a little bit, but he’s about to where he can run by people now…I am so glad to be able to see the success he is having right now.”
Said Gillis, “I feel like being a senior as a running back, I have a lot more knowledge and know what I’m doing more, so it just comes with the flow with everything.”
The North Moore defense also played lights out, coming away with three interceptions and a fumble recovery. Junior Jax Hussey picked off Seaforth’s quarterback twice, and sophomore Justin Walker grabbed his third interception of the season.
The Mustangs’ main flaw of the night was just their execution in the second half, ironically. False starts, defensive busts and other mistakes slowed North Moore to just one touchdown and allowed Seaforth to avoid the shutout in the final two quarters.
“Second half, we kind of waned a little bit,” Carrouth said. “We’ve got to clean that up and be able to execute for four quarters.”
Sitting at fourth in the Mid-Carolina 1A/2A conference with a 4-1 conference record and the head-to-head win over Northwood, North Moore still has hopes of becoming conference champions for the second year in a row.
The Mustangs will continue their quest for a conference title at home against Graham Friday, and for that game, the focus will be on playing sound football all night long.