ROSEPINE – While its offense has put up big numbers throughout the season, the Rosepine defense stepped up to force multiple turnovers to lead the team to a win.
The Eagles picked off three pass and recovered a fumble as they defeated Vinton 35-16 Thursday night at McKee-McCain Stadium.
"I'm super proud of our kids and the way they performed," Rosepine head coach Brad Ducote said. "I knew it was going to be a tough game coming in. Vinton has a good ball club. During halftime, I told them that in the next half that we need a drive that finishes the game. That's when we had our nine-minute drive, and the guys executed it to a 't'. That was big for us and set the tone for the second half.
"All week, Coach (Frank) Rosegrant and I said that the linebackers are going to have to play well this week for us to have a chance to win. We let them know that, and they worked their tails off in practice."
Rosepine linebacker Matthew Williams picked off two passes – one for a pick-6 – and fellow linebacker Scott Wisby had two sacks on the first drive to set the tempo for the defense.
"It feels pretty good to start 1-0 in district," Williams said. "We wanted to come out and grind it out.
"They came out in the passing game with quick outs and slants. They got behind us, and we made an adjustment and started stopping them."
Vinton (3-3, 0-1) took a 10-7 lead in the second quarter, but Rosepine retook the lead with a 36-yard touchdown run by quarterback Seth Ducote with 5:45 left in the half.
Ducote ran for 79 yards on eight carries and passed for 38 yards.
On the ensuing possession, Williams picked off a pass and ran in back for a 42-yard touchdown to put Rosepine up 21-10 at the break.
"It was nice and a lot of fun," Williams said. "It got everybody fired up, and the fans were wild. It was just great."
The Eagles (6-0, 1-0) started off the half with a fumble, but Eagles defensive back Braden Nolen picked off a pass on a fourth-down attempt by Vinton to give Rosepine the ball back.
Rosepine's next drive was a 15-play drive that took almost nine minutes off the clock in the third quarter and was capped off with a 6-yard touchdown run by running back Seth Shirley with 38 seconds left in the third quarter.
Shirley ran for 186 yards on 35 carries with a majority coming in the second half.
"I figured they were going to take the edge away, which they did," Ducote said. "They have some big, tall kids that play good technique. I knew we would have to sneak the edge a few times. Hats off to Vinton, they schemed us up pretty well. We just had to do what has made us successful: the grind."
Vinton fumbled on the drive, setting up a 4-yard touchdown by Wisby to make it 35-10 with 9:23 remaining in the game.
The Lions threw a 6-yard touchdown with 5:47 left on the clock, but the running game of Shirley and Ducote kept the ball away from Vinton as they Eagles earned their sixth win of the year.
"Every week, we're going to have to play well," Ducote said. "We are not that much better than anybody else in the district. We're all right there. We just have to keep improving and keep the kids focused."