Someone was going to end a five-game losing streak on Friday night, when Hoke County traveled to Southern Lee. And the winner was going to be whichever team found a little offense.
Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, that team was the Bucks, who scored two first-quarter touchdowns and then cruised to a 36-7 victory on a night that was supposed to be Southern’s Homecoming, but wasn’t.
Southern had its Spirit Week this week and was planning to make Friday’s game their homecoming, but threatening weather came into the area on Wednesday and never really went away. As it turned out, the rain stayed away until late in the third quarter, but a decision had already been made to do the halftime festivities during the Cavaliers’ final home game, on Oct. 29 when Lee County visits.
The game itself saw the Southern Lee defense, as it has on a number of occasions this season, give all it had. In fact, it was the Cavalier defense that averted the shutout, when Josh Stone picked off a pass deep in Southern territory and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown with 1:10 left in the third quarter. The score came with the Bucks (3-5, 1-3 Sandhills) up 21-0 and trying to put the game out of reach.
Instead, they found out the home team may have been down, but not out. A few plays later, Southern linebacker John Wilson stripped the ball and teammate Corey Hooker recovered it at the Hoke 47-yard line. Unfortunately, the Cavalier offense couldn’t capitalize.
Ethan Wallace had a 72-yard touchdown run for the Bucks with 9:33 remaining, pushing the visitors’ lead to 27-7.
Southern’s offense continued to struggle this week, but the team was already behind the eight-ball in preparation this week. Stone, the team’s usual starter at quarterback, was banged up and the Cavaliers only played him on defense. Freshman Brett Tate-Blanks started the game in his place, and wasn’t intimidated by the 4A Bucks, but didn’t have the experience needed to attack a varsity defense.
Hoke added two more scores in garbage time at the end of the game. Southern lost a fumble at its own 30 and set up Wallace for a short TD run with 6:56 remaining and a 34-7 lead. The Bucks blocked a punt on the next series and turned it into a safety for the final score.
After Hoke scored on its first two possessions of the game, Southern made some adjustments and held the Bucks off the board for the rest of the first half, but missed two opportunities to score. Two Cavalier drives, one late in the first quarter and the other late in the second, bogged down inside the Hoke 30. The Cavaliers asked freshman kicker Bryan McCollum to try a field goal at the edge of his range both times. The first time, from 41 yards, he came up just short with a slight wind in his face. The second one, from 41 at the other end, never had a chance after a poor snap from center.
Hoke extended its lead to 21-0 on a six-yard run by Warren Avery with 3:33 left in the third.
The Cavaliers won’t get much time off to work on things after this game. Southern plays again on Tuesday night at Richmond, in one of the games that was postponed a few weeks ago when the Cavaliers were having COVID-19 issues.