Barons bounce back to beat Washington County

Published 4:51 pm Friday, October 20, 2023

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GATESVILLE – Gates County bounced back from last week’s disappointing home loss vs. Bertie here Friday night in a 38-16 Homecoming Game win over Washington County.

GCHS linebacker Nijhil Baskerville (#46) celebrates with his teammates in the endzone after he returned a fumble 15 yards for a touchdown in Friday’s 38-16 win over Washington County. Photo by Charles Revelle

The Barons benefitted from their rugged ground game (68 carries for 351 yards) while its defense came up big on several occasions to help GCHS improve to 5-3 overall and 2-1 in Four Rivers Conference action.

However, the win didn’t come without a few anxious moments.

Leading 18-0 at halftime, the Barons surrendered a 66-yard pass play by the visiting Panthers on the first snap of the third quarter. That long pass set-up a seven yard touchdown run by Aveyon Downing. Ja Quay Brown added the conversion run, trimming the GCHS lead to 18-8 at the 11:19 mark of the third quarter.

Gates County’s first possession of the second half ended in disaster when Washington County’s Ishawn Fuller blocked a punt. Fuller then grabbed the loose ball and ran 22 yards for an easy touchdown. Panthers quarterback Christian Phelps added the conversion run, rallying Washington County to within 18-16 with 9:12 to go in the third period.

Sa’Myiah Brinkley waves to the crowd as the newly crowned Gates County High School Homecoming Queen takes a ride around the football field in a convertible driven by Ray Felton, chairman of the county’s Board of Education. Photo by Charles Revelle

The visitors then attempted an onside kick, an effort that failed twofold as they not only didn’t recover the kick, they also committed a personal foul on the play. That set-up Gates County in excellent field position, starting a drive from the Panthers 38 yardline. Sparked by a 22-yard run by Jaden Parker, GCHS scored four plays later on a 4-yard run by DaMari Cooper. Parker ran in the conversion, increasing the Barons lead to 26-16.

Washington County threatened to score again on the game’s next series as they moved the ball into the redzone. However, GCHS defender Cam Lee turned in two big plays: tackling Phelps for a six-yard loss and then batting down a fourth down pass at the 10 yardline.

Following an exchange of possessions, Gates County put together a 12-play drive that consumed nearly five minutes off the fourth quarter clock. Cooper ended that 56-yard march with his three yard TD run. The conversion failed, but the Barons extended their lead to 32-16 with 4:25 left in the game.

Any chance of a Washington County comeback was dashed on the game’s next series where linebacker Calvin Harrell put a heavy rush on Phelps, who threw a wobbly pass that was intercepted by DeShawn Sherman.

The interception allowed GCHS to start a drive at the Panthers 35 yardline, which ended seven plays later with A.J. Riddick’s one yard TD run.

Gates County opened the game with an 11-play, 65-yard drive capped by Cooper’s six yard TD run. The conversion run failed, leaving the Barons with a 6-0 lead at the 7:00 mark of the first quarter.

The Gates County defense produced the game’s next points near the midway mark of the second period. There, with Washington County on offense at is own 23 yardline, the Panthers attempted a double handoff, but the ball squirted free and bounded backwards. GCHS linebacker Nijhil Baskerville scooped up loose pigskin and raced 15 yards for a touchdown. The conversion run failed, but the Barons had doubled their lead to 12-0.

After forcing a Panthers punt on the game’s next possession, Gates County closed out the first half scoring with a 51-yard, seven-play drive capped by Cooper’s 10 yard run. The conversion run failed, but the Barons held an 18-0 halftime lead.

Cooper (30 rushes for 152 yards), Parker (21-114) and Riddick (13-66) led the Gates County offense.

Washington County finished with 191 total yards (112 rushing and 79 passing).

Gates County will host undefeated Tarboro High School this Friday, Oct. 20. Kick-off is set for 7 p.m.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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