BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan North’s backs took turns rumbling over, around and through Sullivan Central’s defense, racking up 246 rushing yards and a nonconference road win over the Cougars on Friday.
North quarterback Dustin Doran never put the ball in the air as the Golden Raiders dominated the time of possession and eventually wore down Central’s defense on their way to a 26-13 win.
A week after struggling against Crockett in a spread formation, North coach Robbie Norris said he felt like going back to the basics was the best chance his team had.
“That was more old-time North football,” he said. “We have the ability to throw the football, but we didn’t want to beat ourselves tonight.”
Doran may not have been slinging the ball all over the field, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t get into the action — the 6-foot-3 senior used his feet to pick up 107 rushing yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns.
After Drew McLaughlin returned a punt 95 yards to put Central (0-2) ahead 7-0, Doran responded with a 46-yard touchdown run on the ensuing drive.
North’s deliberate rushing attack coupled with its swarming defense kept Central’s defense on the field for most of the first half.
The Cougars only mustered 5 yards of offense on 12 plays from scrimmage in the first half while the Golden Raiders ran 30 plays and rolled up 174 yards.
When Central’s defense started to wear down in the second quarter, North capitalized with a touchdown run by Eric Pearcy, a safety and a field goal to take a 19-7 lead to the locker room.
By the time Doran scored from 6 yards out late in the fourth quarter, the Golden Raiders were well on their way to a win.
Doran said the running attack worked to perfection but that doesn’t mean he won’t be keeping his throwing arm warmed up and ready to go.
“I think we’re going to switch it up and do what we need to do to win,” Doran said. “Running was the way to beat Central.”
Pearcy finished with 55 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries while Brad Baker had eight tackles, spearheading a defense that spent most of the night in Central’s backfield.
The pressure grounded Central’s passing attack. The quarterbacks went a combined 2-of-15 with three interceptions.
Along with McLaughlin, Robert Herring was a bright spot for the Cougars, rushing for 59 yards on 10 carries with a 49-yard touchdown run in the closing minutes.
Central coach Scott Nelson made some adjustments at halftime and was encouraged with the way his defense responded in the second half. After allowing 174 rushing yards in the first half, the Cougars surrendered just 72 over the final two quarters.
“You’ve got to be able to stop the run, and we didn’t do that in the first half,” Nelson said. “We’re just going through some growing pains — Rome wasn’t built in a day.”