Crusaders Overwhelm Vikings 44-0
Leading up to Friday’s football game with Union Pines, Cardinal Gibbons’ head coach Steven Wright stressed to his team the importance of getting off to a fast start.
The visiting Crusaders (2-1) apparently got the message as they unleashed an early offensive onslaught to capture complete control of the nonconference contest on the way to earning a 44-0 win.
Cardinal Gibbons, of the 3-A Carolina Conference, scored on each of its first four possessions to take a 26-0 lead through one quarter.
Just nine seconds into the second quarter, the Crusaders found the end zone for a fifth and final time during the first half. The score came on a 22-yard run by junior tailback Benjamin Grazen.
“The Vikings are a talented football team,” Wright said, “so my request to our guys all week was that we needed to get off to a fast start.
“Union Pines has got athletes, and if you allow them to hang around, they will give you all you want. So I asked my guys all week to help us get off to a fast start and they did that.”
Gibbons finished the first half with 227 yards of total offense on its way to building a 32-0 halftime lead.
Crusader quarterback John Burton was on target all night.
The 6-foot-3 senior completed seven of his 13 first-half attempts, for 174 yards and three touchdowns. On the night, he finished 12-of-23 for 258 yards, four TDs and one interception, while connecting with nine different Crusader receivers.
Conversely, Union Pines totaled 41 yards on 29 plays in the first half. The Vikings also committed three costly turnovers — including a fumbled punt on a live ball that hit a Viking, an interception on a tailback toss and a fumble by junior signal caller Braxton Ross, as he was sacked at the Vike 14.
Viking head coach Ryan Riggan tipped his hat to the Crusaders after the game.
“We knew from watching Gibbons on film that they were going to be a really good football team,” he said, “and they did not disappoint. They came out here and did a great job.
“They came out, played hard, and did exactly what we thought they would do. You just can’t plan for that speed, size and strength during practice — we can show our guys but not at the speed or level they are going to run their offense at.”
Between the first and second quarters, Riggan called a timeout and huddled his entire team near midfield, where he took them to task by challenging their collective heart and appealing to their competitive spirit.
The speech seemed to inspire the Vikings, as they began making some sound football plays.
“I told them that they had better play or it was going to get ugly,” Riggan said. “From there I feel like our offense responded well and our defense played pretty much lights out, except for maybe three plays.”
One developing story that gained some verve in the second half is the steady progression of Vike junior quarterback Braxton Ross.
At the start of the season, Union Pines was going with a two-man rotation at quarterback with Ross and sophomore Emmitt Carden.
Over the past two weeks, it has become clear that Ross is the Vikings’ starting signal caller.
By the second half of Friday’s game, he seemed to settle down — displaying poise in the pocket, tossing the ball on target and demonstrating an ability to move the ball on the ground with consistency.
“We know Braxton is a super athlete,” Riggan said, “and is great when he has the ball in his hands. So it was encouraging to see him respond by coming out and making plays against an especially strong defensive unit in Cardinal Gibbons.”
Ross carried the ball eight times in the second half to tally a tough 53 yards. Four of those rushes resulted in Vike first downs.
“Braxton makes great decisions and is a strong competitor,” Riggan said. “If he can come out and make plays like that week in and week out, then we are going to be pretty good. He just has to continue to grow in the system and we have to continue to find ways to allow him to hurt opponents on the edge with that run-throw option.”
With the loss, Union Pines’ record fell to 1-2 on the season. Next week the Vikings hit the road to take on 1-A East Montgomery (1-1) in Biscoe.
Cardinal Gibbons 26 6 6 6 — 44
Union Pines 0 0 0 0 — 0
Scoring: (CG) Timothy Nalesnik 47–pass from Burton (Daniel Baker kick); (CG) Grazen 35-pass from Burton (Baker kick); (CG) Drew Henderson 59-pass from Burton (fumbled snap); (CG) Grazen 13-run (failed kick); (CG) Grazen 22-run (muffed snap); (CG) Trevor Zaruba 57-pass (failed kick); (CG) Isaiah Whitten 57-run (muffed snap).
Team stats: Rushing – CG 11-111, 3 TD; UP 37-85; Passing – CG 12-23 258yds 4 TD INT; UP 5-17, 17yds 2 INT; First Downs – CG 12; UP 6; Penalties – CG 6-70; UP 6-60; All-Purpose (Total) – CG 398; Union Pines 157. Fumbles/Lost – CG 0/0; UP 3/2. Individual stats: Rushing – (CG) Grazen 6-42, 2TD, Whitten 4-55 TD; (UP) Ross 11-53, A.J. Ritter 10-27; Passing – (CG) Burton 12-23-1, 258, TD; (UP) Ross 4-16-1 17; Receiving – (CG) Henderson 1-59 TD, Zaruba 1-57 TD, Nalesnik 1-47 TD, Grazen 2-42 TD, Nicholas Holloway 2-20; (UP) Zak Rodriguez 2-11, Parris Manning 3-3
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