The Raleigh Lions kicked off district play on Friday night with a 21-0 shutout victory over Crystal Springs.
The win comes not a moment too soon for the Lions, who had suffered three close-game losses in September and were in urgent need of momentum as they enter district competition.
“We had a great week of practice, and our guys won their one-on-one battles tonight,” said Head Coach Chad Collums after the win.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Lions defense made their first mark on the game with an interception returned for a touchdown by senior defensive back Braxton Burkett.
On the ensuing drive with the Bulldogs threatening to score, sophomore safety Margo Perkins grabbed another interception to halt their efforts. Crystal Springs crosses midfield twice in the contest, with both drives ending on turnovers forces by the Lions.
Perkins finished the half with another big play, only this time on the offensive side of the ball. The sophomore caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Zedric Keyes to give the Lions a two-score advantage going into the locker room.
After another scoreless period in the third, Keyes found the end zone again on a six-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Ed Hicks, putting the game well in hand for the Lions with under eight minutes remaining.
“Zedric has really only been playing with the team for three weeks now,” Collums said about his signal caller, who completed 9 of 13 passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns on the night. “He’s doing a lot of good things. He really gives us a much-needed spark and allows us to open things up a little on offense, so we’re excited about what he brings to the table.”
With three minutes remaining, freshman defensive lineman Alex Evans jumped on a stripped ball to claim the unit’s third forced turnover of the night, allowing the offense to run out the remainder of the clock and claim a 21-0 win.
The Lions held Crystal Springs to 138 total yards of offense, a total they doubled with 289 yards of their own. Raleigh sophomore Darius Windham carried the ball 11 times for 116 yards, and junior Jaheen Campbell had 15 carries for 50 tough yards. Margo Perkins was Keyes’ biggest receiving target with five catches for 89 yards in a touchdown to go along with his defensive interception.
With non-district play now a thing of the past, the only record that concerns Collums and his Lions is their 1-0 record in District 6-3A competition. Next week they will travel to Magee to face the Trojans before hosting back-to-back games against McLaurin and St. Andrews Episcopal. Collums believes if his team remains focused, October can be a very satisfying month of football.
“We played well tonight, but we don’t want to get complacent,” Collums said. “There are things we can do better on both sides of the ball. [Magee Head Coach] Teddy Dyess and his team are playing some really good football this year, and we know they’ll be ready come next Friday, so we’ve got to continue to work hard and get better.”