It was a first half to forget for the Pepperell Dragons on Friday night. The second half was a little more worth remembering.
While Gordon Central tried its best to upset Pepperell on homecoming night at Dragon Stadium, it was the resolve of the Dragons to come back out after halftime and capture a 28-7 win to start their Region 7-AA schedule.
The victory was career win No. 100 for Pepperell head coach Rick Hurst, who saw his team overcome four turnovers in the second quarter and go on to score 21 unanswered points in the second half to nab the win.
“It was a little heated in the locker room, as you can imagine, and all of our coaches got what they wanted to say across,” Hurst said. “I told them before we came back out, ‘Look, forget the frustration. Let’s just go out and play. Don’t put it on the ground. Don’t make stupid mistakes. And we’ll pull away from them.’ And they did. They responded. And I felt like they came out in the second half focused on what they needed to do and made plays.”
Gage Moses ran for a touchdown and threw a 29-yard pass for a score to Dalton Wright in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach of the Warriors, who are still searching for their first win of the season.
Moses was 12 of 20 for 247 yards passing and had two interceptions as part of the rough second quarter for the Dragons. But he joined his teammates in reversing their fortune in the second half.
He hooked up with Payton Rhoades for a 46-yard pass on Pepperell’s first play of the final quarter, and then faked the handoff before rumbling in from 9 yards out for the score.
“Gage was dropping dimes tonight,” Hurst said. “Some of the throws he made were just outstanding. Some over the middle and standing in the pocket, concentrating on the throw and reading the defense. He played well.”
The Warriors opened the game with a reverse pass on the first play from scrimmage, allowing quarterback Nelson Gravitt to throw downfield to a wide-open Issac Dye, who raced down to the Pepperell 15 before being tackled for a 62-yard reception.
Gravitt pushed his way over the goal line from 2 yards out a few plays later for the first touchdown of the game. Luis Garcia made the extra point and Gordon Central owned a 7-0 lead over Pepperell with 8:49 left in the opening half.
Pepperell (3-1, 1-0 7-AA) was able to even things up with 2:34 left in the first quarter when Moses hit Tra Robinson on a pass out to the left that the junior turned into an 87-yard touchdown. Ryan Hurst made his first of four successful extra points to tie the game 7-7.
Hurst later recovered a fumble by Boone on the Warriors’ first possession of the second half and the Dragons marched 33 yards, with D.J. Rogers forcing his way through for a 7-yard touchdown to break the tie.
Robinson would go on to have five receptions for 125 yards, while Rhoades finished with 60 yards on four catches. Pepperell had 156 yards rushing in the game, and Hurst was pleased with the balance the Dragons showed on offense.
“I thought we did a good job protecting. I thought we spread the ball around a little bit better tonight,” he said. “I know Payton had some catches, but you had Tra, Dalton, Ryan all get in on it. And that’s what we’ve got to do. You’ve got to spread it around, because eventually somebody is going to try to take away number seven (Rhoades).”
Pepperell will leave the confines of Dragon Stadium for the first time in three weeks next Friday when they travel to Coosa.
Gordon Central is at home to play Chattooga.