Both Havelock and Orange entered Friday’s eastern 3A regional championship game giving up just 10 points per game. In a battle of the best defenses, Havelock came out on top, clearly.
The Rams forced two turnovers, as Pharoh Cooper and Julian Cuthbertson each recovered fumbles. For Cooper, who plays safety, it was his first fumble recovery of the year.
“I don’t think I ever had one before,” said Cooper. “I know it’s my first one this year.”
Meanwhile, Havelock also recorded three sacks, two coming at a crucial time when Orange had driven to the Ram 30-yard line in the second quarter. Anthony Fisher and Kendall Vickers recorded sacks to end that Panthers scoring threat, and Fisher combined with Maurice Harris on another sack in the third quarter.
Havelock’s defense also held on fourth down in the first quarter when the Panthers were making a bid to take the lead. Also key was a tackle by Taylor Woods on Orange running back Jamal Pittman for a loss of 2 yards on a third-and-1 from at the 42-yard line in the third quarter.
In all, Orange totaled just 98 yards on 34 rushes for a 2.9-yard per carry average and totaled just 216 yards for the contest.
Center of attention
Havelock center Michael Howard is the smallest of the Rams’ starting offensive linemen at 175 pounds. Orange High School countered with nose tackle Jake Frederick, who is listed at 295 pounds. Despite the size difference, the Rams had no problems blocking Orange’s big defensive front.
Howard at one point had to leave the game for a few plays in the first quarter with a bloody mouth and was replaced by David Lynch, who also is listed as 175 pounds.
No matter, the Rams scored on the drive anyway, getting a 13-yard touchdown run from Cooper.
Just for kicks
After Orange returned Havelock’s opening pooch kickoff 52 yards inside the Ram 25-yard line and converted it into a tying touchdown in the first quarter, Noah Kemble was directed to kick the ball deep the rest of the night.
Known as a standout soccer player for the Rams, Kemble drilled consistently high and deep kickoffs – and along with good kickoff coverage - kept Orange pinned inside its own 30-yard line the rest of the night. Kemble also had a touchback on one of his kickoffs.
Meanwhile, fellow kicker Dylan Baker hit on all six of his extra point attempts for the Rams.
Havelock’s spread offense is known as a wide-open offense, but the Rams were remarkably balanced against Orange.
The Rams totaled 262 yards rushing and 258 yards passing in the contest.
“We’ve got great linemen, great receivers and great running backs,” said Cooper, who threw for 248 yards and rushed for another 98, accounting for four touchdowns from the quarterback position. “I thank my team every time I get a chance to because they really make some holes.”
Not about football
No one could blame Havelock sophomore linebacker Joey Godette if his mind wasn’t completely on football on Friday night. Godette’s home caught fire on Thanksgiving night, and the structure was considered a total loss. Godette and eight others staying at the home for the holiday escaped unhurt.
Still, Godette lost everything in the fire, and the family does not have renter’s insurance. A collection was taken up during the game to help the family, a collection to which many fans from Orange High School donated, drawing applause from Havelock fans when it was announced over the stadium loud speaker.
Havelock takes on Concord for the state 3A championship at 3 p.m. Dec. 1 at BB&T Field on the campus of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem.
Tickets for the game are $10 at the gate, but can be purchased in advance for $9 during normal school hours at Havelock High School.
The Havelock High Rams Booster Club is chartering a bus with enough seating for 55 people. The cost will be $50, which includes a game ticket.
Anyone wishing to reserve a seat can email email@example.com.