Saturday afternoon was a day of ‘firsts’ for North Cross Head Coach Stephen Alexander. The first-year Raider boss picked up his first win as North Cross played inspired football to defeat tough VIC foe Blue Ridge School 35-14 in the Raider’s first home game of the young season.
At midfield after the game, Alexander announced to the team and a gathering of cheering Raider fans that he and his wife, Monica, were expecting their first child.
On sunny Thomas Field it was obvious North Cross came to play, looking for a new start after enduring a tough 54-0 road loss to much larger North Carolina public school Ben L. Smith last week. The Raider defense took center stage in the early going, as Blue Ridge never could sustain a serious scoring threat in the first half. North Cross scored on its first possession when running back Antoine Martin raced in from 2-yards out to give the Raiders a 6-0 lead it would take to the locker room at the half. North Cross was deep in the red zone, and seemed poised to add some points in the last minute of the half, before a sack of scrambling quarterback Thomas Weaver saw time expire before the Raiders could get off a final play or field goal attempt.
North Cross expanded their lead to 13-0 on a 27-yard pass from Weaver to quarterback-converted-receiver Fuller Clark in the third quarter followed by a Micajah Lacy PAT.
Blue Ridge, however, stormed back with back-to-back passing touchdowns to take the lead, 14-13, early in the fourth quarter. The momentum shifted to North Cross with 8:32 left when, on fourth down, Clark went between two Blue Ridge defenders to bring in an acrobatic 28-yard touchdown pass from Weaver that gave the Raiders the lead for good. North Cross would pull away down the stretch with touchdown runs by Martin from 4-yards out and a 3-yard scamper by Myles Poindexter to secure the victory.
Martin lead the Raider rushing attack with 188 yards on 28 carries. Weaver, an early-season transfer from Salem, was 16-for-24 in passing, with 165-yards in the air.
The North Cross defense held Blue Ridge to 106 yards on the ground and 97 passing yards, while only giving up 6 first downs.
Alexander was pleased with the way his Raiders responded to the bigger Blue Ridge squad.
” We knew conditioning was on our side,” he said after the game. “We knew Blue Ridge was big. Our defense answered the call.”
As for the Blue Ridge comeback, Alexander liked the way the Raiders reacted. “We suddenly found ourselves down by one,” he noted. “We reponded immediately. Fuller (Clark) made that catch after being converted to a receiver from quarterback this week. He’s a great athlete.”
The first win was big for the new head coach. “It feels great. A new baby for me and my wife, and my first win as a head coach,” Alexander said, smiling. “Everything is new for North Cross football. We’re going to get better.”
North Cross returns to action Friday afternoon at home for a 4:30 matchup against powerful Blessed Sacrament-Huguenot.Photos and Recap by Bill Turner [email protected]