For the first time since 2007 and only the second time in the last decade, the Newport Greyhounds have opened the season 1-0.
Coach Jeromy Poole’s Hounds knocked off Nettleton Thursday night at Greyhound Field as an influx of new talent combined with strong senior leadership to send the soggy Greyhound faithful home happy. “I can't say enough about our seniors. Their motors run all the time. It started with those guys. They just did a great job,” Poole said. “These underclassmen have just kind of fallen in line behind those guys and that it what makes it so great - they are understanding where we are wanting to go.” Sophomore quarterback Gunnar Bullard and freshman tailback Carl Turner along with left tackle Jesse Simmons, another sophomore, added life to the Newport offense, while sophomore Khiran Stafford turned in an outstanding effort on defense to help fuel the victory. However, the play of seniors Tim Brown, Stephen Neal, Maurice Killingsworth, Will Bowen, Hunter Bowen, Divante Armstrong and Lance Connor led the way for those young Hounds, Poole notes. “Like I've told you in the past, they stepped up in the offseason and this thing got started then with guys like Divante Armstrong, Tim Brown, Stephen Neal, Maurice (Killingsworth), Will Bowen.” Not to be outdone, a talented junior class, which saw plenty of action in 2011, was outstanding on both sides of the ball as Newport turned in a complete effort, according to offensive coordinator Don Harrison. “I’ve said all year that we almost have too many weapons,” Harrison explained. “You look up and Reid (Johnson) touches the ball only one time and it goes for a score. Asante Shell has one catch and it goes for a big score. Kristen Crite has another big game on offense for us and all three of those guys are juniors.” He continued, “We’ve got a senior offensive line and almost all of the skill position guys return.” Crite ran for a game-high 140 yards including a 59-yard run with only 12.5 seconds remaining in the first half to stretch the lead to 22-11 at intermission. Crite’s run followed a 44-yard field goal by the Raiders to trim the Newport lead to 14-11. Newport jumped out in front 14-0 as Bullard and Turner connected on a 79-yard screen pass for a touchdown on the team’s first offensive play of the season. The extra point attempt was blocked but the Hounds led 6-0. They extended their lead to 14-0 on their second possession of the night as Bullard found Shell, who leaped over two Raider defenders and raced into the end zone. Crite added the two-point conversion. Nettleton answered with an eight-play, 59-yard drive and two-point conversion to trim the lead to 14-8. The stellar first half defense by the Greyhounds was exposed in the second half Poole felt, but the offense carried the load. “From a defensive perspective, we played fast,” Poole explained. “Toward the end, hats off to Coach (Jay) Murphree and his staff, they figured out our scheme. I felt like we came into the game with a great scheme but they figured it out there at the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth quarter. It showed that they figured it out but our kids persevered and kept fighting on the defensive side of the ball.” The team’s exchanged scoring drives in the second half as they combined to find the end zone on five straight possessions. Nettleton trimmed the lead to 22-17 on a 1-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion was no good however. The Greyhounds answered immediately as Bullard threw the third of his three touchdown passes finding Johnson between defenders on a seam route for a 36-yard catch and run. Crite added the successful two-point conversion to widen the lead to 30-17. A 14-yard scoring run by the Raiders and successful point after on their ensuing drive pulled Nettleton within six, 30-24, with 11:06 remaining in the game. A 1-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-goal by Bullard extended the Newport lead to 38-24 after a two-point pass to another sophomore, Colton Willis. A perfectly executed play fake by the young quarterback got him in the end zone while standing in the pocket and delivering a strike to Willis just as he was getting pummeled by a Raider defender got him noticed by his coach. “Our quarterback only had one mistake, one mistake, in his first varsity action,” said Harrison. “The throw he made to Reid was just beautiful. He made good plays all night. For Gunnar it is going to be a learning process all year long. We are going to watch this film, break it down - things he did right, things he did wrong. All he can do is get better and that is the exciting thing about him.” Nettleton added a 28-yard scoring run on their final possession of the night to cut the lead to 38-32 with 2:39 to go in the game before the Hounds ran out the clock. Crite led the Hounds with 140 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries while Bullard added 54 yards and a score on nine carries. Turner added 33 yards on 10 totes while Alcorn had 30 yards on seven carries. Denver Smith picked up 4 yards on two carries while Colton Willis carried two times for 1 yard. Bullard was 5 of 7 passing for 159 yards and three touchdowns and one interception. Five different receivers caught passes led by Turner’s 79-yard scoring play. Johnson and Shell had a 36-yard touchdown catch each. Garrett Smith had seven yards and Crite one yard through the air. Defensively, senior linebacker tallied a game-high 11 stops for the defense. Stafford, a sophomore, was joined by Brown, Armstrong and Crite with seven tackles each. Ramiro Macias, Alcorn and Johnson each had four tackles while Deondre Elston added three. Will Bowen and McCabe Cordell had three tackles each. While Poole was proud of the effort of his squad, he praised the Greyhound fans who braved the elements to cheer his team to a win. “I just appreciate everybody coming out tonight and braving the weather and watching the game and I hope they pack the stands next week. It will be a great game and we are going to prepare hard, just like this week, and go hard.” The Greyhounds host Bald Knob Friday, Sept. 7 at Greyhound Field.