The Golden Raiders entered their nonconference matchup with visiting Unaka without starting quarterback Austin Hartsock, out with a broken leg, and leading rusher Dale Potter, out with a broken hand. Sophomore Isaiah Pruitt was making his first start at quarterback, and North had to shuffle its running backs.
“We were nervous before the game,” said North coach Preston Patrick. “We asked some kids to step up, and they did. We just planned to run our base offense and let Pruitt manage the game.”
And manage it he did.
Using a punishing ground game and a smothering defense, the Golden Raiders cruised to a 49-14 win over the Rangers.
“I was a little nervous there at the start,” Pruitt said. “But I got myself motivated and stepped up.”
North (5-1) scored on its first four possessions, grinding out yardage and time on the clock.
Yancy Dolen capped a seven-play, 85-yard drive on the Raiders’ first possession with a 1-yard burst through the Unaka defense. Zach Scott added touchdown runs of 5 and 10 yards and North held a 20-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Vance Rupe tacked on a 1-yard touchdown run to close out the first-half scoring for North.
In the first half alone, the Raiders rushed for 211 yards on 28 carries.
Meanwhile, North’s aggressive defense sacked Rangers quarterback John Ramsey four times and held Unaka’s offense to just 14 total yards in the first half.
“North had a good game plan,” said Unaka coach O’Brien Bennett. “They rushed their down five and we had trouble picking it up. We made some adjustments in the second half but still couldn’t get much going.
“That’s a good football team,” Bennett added. “Our kids just have to learn to match that type of physicality.”
Down 35-0 in the third quarter, Ramsey finally got untracked and connected with Nick Bowers on 35-yard TD strike. The Rangers (1-4) successfully went for two, cutting the deficit to 35-8.
North added TD runs of 45 yards from Dylan Cole and 16 yards from Landon Roberts in the fourth quarter to build the advantage to 49-8 late in the game.
Ramsey connected with Devin Jarrett on a 33-yard scoring pass in the final moments for some solace for the Rangers.
The Golden Raiders finished with 339 yards rushing on 41 carries. Scott rushed nine times for 91 yards and two TDs, Rupe added 78 yards on 10 carries and Dolen had eight rushes for 71 yards.
Ramsey completed 17 of 28 passes for 162 yards.
North goes to Hampton next week for a Region 1-2A clash. Unaka visits Region 1-1A leader Cloudland.