MERRYVILLE – Rosepine came into season returning a majority of its starters from the last season, and the experienced showed in the second half against Merryville.
The Eagles outscored the Panthers by 21 in the second half to pick up their first win, 35-13, Thursday night at Keener Cagle Stadium.
"It's not about me, obviously," Rosepine's first-year head coach Brad Ducote said. "It's about 50 young men with one goal, and that's to win every game they step on the field to play. Today was a start. They had to see me in action to get some trust me in me. Hats off to Merryville though. They played us really tough in the first half, and I knew they would. They have a good ball club.
"I think we started wearing on them a little bit, and our depth took over."
Rosepine (1-0) senior running back Seth Shirley picked up where he left off last year, racking up four touchdowns and 144 yards on 21 carries to lead the Eagles.
"I put a lot of stock in that kid," Ducote said. "I've coached him for years, and the biggest thing I told him was to not put the ball on the ground. He didn't. His second and third effort was great tonight."
For Merryville, the Panthers found a new weapon in freshman running back Cam'ron Williams, who posted 97 yards and a touchdown in the loss.
"He's going to be a good one," Merryville head coach Randy Jones said. "I'm looking forward to having him for four years. He's got a ways to go, but you can't fault the way he runs the ball. He's a running back."
Rosepine got on the board first with a 4-yard touchdown run by Shirley, but Merryville answered with a 2-yard touchdown run by Williams to tie it up with 11 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Panthers took the lead in the middle of the second quarter on a 56-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Connor Pruitt to receiver J.T. Gargis, who got open on a fake screen and went down the field unguarded.
"I think being in the system and not having to go back and teach a lot has translated in us being a little further ahead," Jones said about his offense. "I think we still have some execution stuff to work on."
Pruitt threw for 120 yards on 7-for-14 passing, but finished with three interceptions
The extra point attempt was no good, and Rosepine quickly retook the lead on a 11-yard designed run by quarterback Seth Ducote to take the 14-13 lead with 5:39 to go in the half.
"He ran with conviction tonight," Brad Ducote said. "We started in the power-I and then spreaded it out a little bit. We let his feet take over, and they did. That opened things up for us."
Ducote finished the game with 129 rushing yards and was 3-for-5 in the air for 77 yards.
Shirley recorded three touchdowns in the second half (23 yards, 17 yards and 5 yards) for all of the Eagles' scores in the second half.
The Rosepine defense forced three turnovers in the second half as it made plays to keep Merryville at bay.
"Our defense played well," Ducote said. "We gave up third-and-12 early in the game, and they scored on that drive. Overall, I'm pleased with it. Defensively and offensively, I'm pleased with what we did tonight."
Merryville takes on St. John next week at home as it looks to pick up its first win of the season.
"I think we played well tonight in places, and we have some room to improve in places," Jones said. "It was a good first test for us. They just outmanned us in the second half."
Rosepine goes on the road to face South Cameron on Thursday night to keep its momentum going.
"I already knew we were physical, but I didn't know in how great shape we were," Ducote said. "Tonight, they proved they were in pretty good condition.
"This is their second year in the system, so we are way ahead of where we were last year."