Many of the fans who packed South Mecklenburg High’s stadium Friday night saw what they had expected — a stellar performance by a quarterback.
But it wasn’t the quarterback they had expected to dominate the game.
The Sabres’ Cam Reese put on a textbook display of directing a ball-control offense and led his team to a 17-3 victory over visiting Catawba Ridge.
Copperheads quarterback Jadyn Davis, a sophomore who is ranked by some scouts as the nation’s top 10th-grade signal-caller and top overall player, was hounded by South Mecklenburg’s defense and had a forgettable evening.
“The defense did a phenomenal job,” said Sabres’ coach Joe Evans, whose team finished the nonconference portion of its schedule with a 4-1 record. “They played hard all night and made some big plays.”
But while South Mecklenburg’s defense disarmed Davis and the Copperhead attack, the Sabre offense dominated the game. And Reese, a 6-2 junior, was the architect.
He passed for 154 yards in the first half and 189 for the game. He threw for a touchdown and completed passes five times in the opening 24 minutes to keep drives alive.
And when all else failed, Reese dominated the game with trickery. Twice in the second half, he used his cadence to force Catawba Ridge into offside penalties that gave the Sabres first downs. Both of those calls came on a 44-yard, 11-play drive that gave South Mecklenburg its final points of the game and put the Copperheads (3-2) in a big hole.
“We had a great game plan, and we executed it,” Reese said. “We wanted to keep the ball and wear them down, and we accomplished that.”
Football analysts like to contend that time of possession often is a meaningless statistic, but that wasn’t the case Friday night.
South Mecklenburg had the ball for 17½ of the 24 minutes in the first half, and more than 19 minutes in the second half. For the game, the Sabres had possession for nearly 37 minutes, to 11 minutes for Catawba Ridge.
The Sabres had a nine-play drive that ate up half of the first quarter and resulted in a Cam Reese touchdown pass. They bettered that with a 15-play drive in the second quarter that used nearly seven minutes and ended in a Zane Davis field goal.
“We noticed they had their hands on their hips in the second quarter,” Evans said of the tiring Copperheads. “That is what we wanted to do.”
The visitors had only 55 yards’ total offense in the first half and were outgained 365-141 for the game.
Catawba Ridge’s offense finally moved a bit in the second half, and the Copperheads drove for a field goal early in the fourth quarter. They marched to the South Mecklenburg 5 with about six minutes remaining, but the Sabres’ Anthony McCrorey picked off a Davis pass at the goal line and returned it 30 yards.
Three who mattered
Cam Reese, South Mecklenburg: Reese passed for 154 yards in the first half and led the Sabre attack that kept the ball for three-quarters of the game. He also ran for 34 yards.
Jacob Newman, South Mecklenburg: Newman, a senior running back, did what he does best – run the ball, punish the defense, and eventually wear down that defense. He carried 33 times for 133 yards and scored a touchdown.
Tyler Jones, Catawba Ridge: Jones was a bright spot for the Copperheads, carrying the ball 15 times for 66 yards. He accounted for more about 45 percent of the team’s offense.
▪ Catawba Ridge quarterback Jadyn Davis completed 6-of-17 passes, with one interception, for 33 yards. He ran seven times for 32 yards. South Mecklenburg’s defense had him scrambling all evening. Davis entered the game with 776 passing yards and a 57 percent completion ratio.
▪ Evans, Reese and running back Jacob Newman each took pains to praise the Sabres’ offensive line. “That line was fantastic tonight,” Newman said. “They opened holes and really wore them (Copperheads) down.”
▪ South Mecklenburg’s McCrorey had an interception and two tackles for losses. Defensive back Panos Burlos broke up four passes.
▪ When McCrorey picked off Jadyn Davis late in the game, it was only the second interception for Davis in 109 pass attempts this season.
▪ This is Catawba Ridge’s third year of varsity football, and the Copperheads have improved in a hurry. They were 2-8 in 2019 but improved to 7-2 last fall, reaching the third round of the 4A playoffs. Zac Lendyak has coached the team since its start.
▪ This was the first meeting between Catawba Ridge and South Mecklenburg. The Copperheads lost their previous three meetings with Mecklenburg County teams — including a 2-0 forfeit loss in November 2019 to Ardrey Kell. Several members of the Catawba Ridge team had contracted Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. That was about three months before most of us heard about COVID-19.
▪ The South Mecklenburg student section, which can be rather boisterous, began chanting “Overrated” at Jadyn Davis on the first series of the game, when the Copperheads were forced to punt. They kept it going all evening.
Catawba Ridge completes nonconference play next Friday at home against Chester. South Mecklenburg is off next week and opens South Meck 4A conference play Oct. 8 at Ardrey Kell.
Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle
Catawba Ridge 0 0 0 3 — 3
South Mecklenburg 7 3 7 0 — 17
SM: Tiquez Mallette 14 pass from Cam Reese (Zane Davis kick)
SM: Davis FG 29
SM: Jacob Newman 3 run (Davis kick)
CR: Kohen Kozel FG 30