Rams intercept five passes in 24-7 victory.
Apparently, three interceptions in each of Havelock’s first two playoff games weren’t enough for the Ram defensive backs.
Havelock came up with five interceptions, with sophomore Anthony Harris getting two of them, as the Rams advanced to the eastern regional championship game with a 24-7 victory over West Craven Friday night.
“Our big key has been talking to each other, being in the right coverages, being on the same page and being in the right spots, so when they throw the ball, we can get a pick,” Harris said.
He came up with two interceptions a week after his older brother Jeffrey, a senior, had three in Havelock’s second-round victory Nov. 25 against Orange.
“He was there at the right spots last week, and I was there at the right spots tonight,” Harris said after Friday’s game. “We just played our coverage. That’s why he got three last week, and I got two tonight.”
West Craven quarterback Jarred Arthur threw for two touchdowns and was 14 of 28 for 189 yards as the Eagles beat Havelock 28-21 earlier this season. Friday night, he was just 10 of 28 for 168 yards, but had those five interceptions.
“He’s a really good senior quarterback, so we were just trying to mix up our looks a little bit,” Havelock defensive backs coach Matt Handley said. “I think we threw a couple things at them that they hadn’t seen on film yet, things we’ve been working on since last spring and just haven’t used it. We just wanted to make sure that they didn’t beat us through the air like the last time.
“We had a couple of seniors come up with a couple of really big plays, and then Anthony Harris, he’s just a sophomore, and he had a couple (interceptions).”
The Rams played four main coverages in the secondary Friday night, including two zone coverages and two man-to-man coverages.
“These guys are smart enough to do it,” Handley said.
With a scoreless game in the first quarter, Solomon Beligotti – who had three rushing touchdowns offensively – picked off Arthur at the Havelock 21-yard line, stopping an Eagles threat.
After Beligotti’s first touchdown put the Rams up 7-0, Harris had his first interception, setting up Christian Hoomana’s 20-yard field goal that lifted Havelock to a 10-0 lead with 9:15 left in the second quarter.
“I just went over to the corner where No. 14 was, and I just jumped up and caught it,” Harris said.
Harris’ second interception stopped a West Craven drive that had reached the Havelock 17-yard line late in the first half.
In the third quarter, Havelock’s Dominick Madden thwarted the Eagles with an interception at the 5-yard line, preserving Havelock’s 10-0 lead.
Montrece Gatling had Havelock’s final interception of the night early in the fourth quarter.
“I was in cover two, and I just saw someone coming out and I just broke on the ball,” Gatling said. “There was a play that had to be made.”
And Gatling said the defensive players knew they had to make plays after that 28-21 regular-season loss to the Eagles.
“We realized our offense could score. We had to do our jobs on defense,” Gatling said. “We had to be in the right spots, and once they threw the ball, we had to go up and get it.
“Everybody in the secondary, they stepped up, especially guys like Anthony. He’s a sophomore, and Jeffrey, we’ve been playing together ever since we were little, so I knew he would step up and make plays.”
In three playoff games, the Rams have 11 interceptions.
“We never expected this,” Gatling said. “We just try to play and do our jobs and make the plays on the ball. I think it’s a big improvement from last year.”
Last year, the Rams lost in the second round of the playoffs, giving up 42 points in a loss to Eden Morehead. This year, the Rams will host Rocky Mount next week for the eastern regional championship.
“This was big to win it,” Gatling said. “Last year, we only made it to the second round. This year we’re back hosting the eastern finals. That’s what we wanted. We’re going to enjoy this win tonight, but then we’ve got to get back to work.”