Wednesday, 06 November 2019 18:28

Rockingham defeats rival Hamlet, wins West division

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Rockingham's Jada Zimmerman intercepts a pass during the second quarter of Wednesday's rivalry game. Rockingham's Jada Zimmerman intercepts a pass during the second quarter of Wednesday's rivalry game. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

HAMLET — The Rockingham Middle School football team needed to earn a win Wednesday against rival Hamlet Middle School to keep its championship hopes alive.

Behind a two-touchdown effort from eight grade wide receiver Paul McNeil, the Rockets and head coach Larcoy McRae defeated the Red Rams 21-6 on the road. Rockingham and Hamlet have been playing one another since 1916, making it one of the oldest rivalries in the Sandhills.

With the win, the Rockets finished the regular-season in a three-way tie at the top of the Southeastern Middle School Athletic Conference West division with Anson and Cordova middle schools. A pull of the straws following the game saw Rockingham named the West’s representative in the SEMSAC title game.

“It was a great effort today and the boys united together as a team and played a full game,” McRae said following the game. “I told them they didn’t know what they were capable of yet this season because they hadn’t played a full game until today.”

A scoreless first quarter turned into Rockingham’s first lead in the middle of the second frame. A long Jacob Wall punt return put the Rockets at the Hamlet 12-yard line, and three plays later, quarterback Jordan Covington found wide receiver Jada Zimmerman along the right side of the end zone for a three-yard score. 

James Eason made the first of his three point after attempts to give the Rockets a 7-0 lead with 4:11 to go before the half.

On the next play from scrimmage for the Red Rams, Zimmerman came up big for the Rockets in the secondary, intercepting a pass high over the middle. He caught it at the Rockingham 35-yard line and returned it to the Hamlet 48-yard line.

A 28-yard hookup from Covington to McNeil put the Rockets in the red zone and a pitch to Noah Jenks two plays later set up a first-and-goal at the 10-yard line. This time Covington laced a pass to McNeil with 13 seconds remaining in the half. 

An Eason PAT gave the visitors a 14-0 lead. Again on the next play for Hamlet on the ensuing drive, an interception occurred, this time with Wall making the catch to end the half.

The Red Rams defense came out strong in the second half and forced a punt attempt by Rockingham. Eason botched the snap but scooped the ball up and muscled his way forward to gain the 10 yards needed for the first down.

That play would extend the drive that resulted in Rockingham’s final score. A couple of pitchouts to Jenks moved the ball to the 15-yard line, where Covington again found McNeil, this time in the back right corner. Eason rang true again to go up 21-0 with 4:06 left in the third.

Hamlet’s lone touchdown would come on the next drive, an 11-play march that went 65 yards. A strong running game from quarterback JV Drake and tailbacks David McNair and Larease Swinnie saw the Red Rams carry the ball on every play of the drive.

Swinnie had the longest run of the scoring drive, a 20-yard burst along the right side, to put Hamlet at the 15-yard line. With the clock rolling over into the fourth quarter, Swinnie barreled ahead from a yard out with 6:11 left in regulation. The two-point conversion attempt was no good.

Both teams traded possessions the rest of the game, ending when Hamlet fumbled on a punt return, allowing the Rockets to recover and take a knee.

Rockingham finished the regular season 4-3 overall, and the Red Rams closed their season with a 3-2. The Rockets will wait to see who they play in the SEMSAC title game.

Kyle Pillar

Sports Editor. IUP communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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