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Pullen and Rams run over Catamounts

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ROLESVILLE — No. 8-seeded Rolesville High football’s giddyup and over its playoff hump was provided by its workhorse last Friday during a 47-7 trampling of No. 9 Panther Creek.

Tailback Josh Pullen carried 35 times for 285 yards and five touchdowns as his Rams added to their record season win total (10) and won its first postseason contest ever on the third try. His senior superlatives and a second-half defensive domination punched their ticket for an epic rematch this week with No. 1-seed Wake Forest.

Those two squads met a month ago in the same place (Trentini Stadium), where a failed two-point conversion cost Rolesville a 31-30 overtime defeat. The familiar neighborhood rival just happens to also be the three-time reigning 4AA state champion.

But that sequel showdown required the Rams to show up in the first round after being upset there, at home, a year ago. They did, rewriting history from the very first snap --- which ended up in Pullen’s hands for an 8-yard gain, by the way. He would continue with totes for 3, 8, 31 and 18 all the way to the end zone. The PAT failed, leaving the hosts ahead 6-0 just 2 minutes and 21 seconds into the game.

The Catamounts (6-6) punted and surrendered possession to the ground-gobbling aggressor. Pullen posted pops of 18 and 4 before sophomore quarterback Byrum Brown (6-of-10 passing, 151 yards) located Cyrus Rogers on a 36-yard slant. From the enemy 8, well, the option was easy. Pullen pushed in from 1 yard out with 5:56 left in the first quarter. The failed two-point conversion left a 12-0 difference. With that score, Brown went over 2,000 yards passing for the season.

Panther Creek initiated the next surprise to begin the second stanza. Facing a third-and-17 from its own seven, a sideline completion wriggled free for a 93-yard breakaway instead. That PAT cut the margin to 12-7.

Rolesville may have sensed some deja vu from the 2018 letdown. If so, it responded with a seven-play drive covering 75 yards. Pullen supplied 46 yards of leg muscle prior to Brown hitting Jashaun Patterson in the flats. Patterson broke a tackle and steamed the sideline to paydirt on a 24-yard answer. Devin Versteegen’s extra provided the 19-7 halftime edge.

The Catamounts fumbled their very first hike of the third quarter. Robert Saravia pounced on the loose ball. His team pounced all over the opportunity.

Three plays later, Pullen trucked into the end zone from 31 yards out. Versteegen posted the PAT and a 26-7 gulf with 10:40 left in the frame.

Once Raekwan Williams recovered an ensuing onside kick at the Panther Creek 42, the rout was on. Pullen galloped 15 yards at the 9:29 mark, then Versteegen added to the 33-7 advantage.

Panther Creek momentarily staved off annihilation by traveling to the Ram 1 on a six-play drive aided by three of Rolesville’s 18 total penalties. At the verge, however, the resistance inflated. A stuffed dive, a minus-5-yard Darius Robinson sack and two incompletions denied the point-blank chance.

The Rams began the fourth by cashing in a 21-yard Pullen jaunt and the PAT for a 40-7 gap. Later, as Pullen rested, Davonne Dunn (eight carries, 50 yards) capped a methodical drive from 1 yard away with 1:18 left. Raeann Clayton clipped the final margin.

“It was a way to get the monkey off this program’s back,” first-year head coach Martin Samek said afterward. “There’s plenty left we want to accomplish. It sure won’t be easy with what is right in front of us, but these guys have proven to be up to the challenges facing them.”

Rolesville’s defense limited Panther Creek to 18 yards rushing on 35 carries courtesy of a season-best 10 quarterback sacks factored in. The Catamounts hit only one of 11 aerial attempts for 8 yards after the big single scoring strike.

The Rams romped to 523 accumulated yards and 22 first downs using an overwhelming 68-to-47 offensive play advantage over the opening foe. Pullen personally punctuated his ongoing accomplishments with 33 cumulative touchdowns and 1,850 yards rushing this fall.

Rolesville will play at Wake Forest in the second round of the 4AA state playoffs tonight at 7:30 p.m.