Pope Prep senior running back Elijah Robb put the Knights on his back and carried them to a 41-14 win Friday over Division II-AA Middle Region foe Goodpasture.
Robb rushed for five touchdowns and 271 yards as the Knights picked up their second win in a row to improve their record to 2-3 overall and 2-0 in the region.
The senior credited his offensive line for the performance. “I can definitely give all the credit to them,” he said. After Pope Prep’s 0-3 start to the season, “Everyone knows we’ve been struggling,” Robb said. “We finally clicked, and I think we’re going to get it together.”
Robb scored on rushes of 9 yards and 17 in the first half and added touchdown runs of 14, 10 and 38 yards in the second half. He also caught two passes for 37 yards.
It was “amazing” blocking for Robb, said Pope Prep junior offensive tackle Sam Spicer. “I just love seeing him run people over.”
“He runs the ball hard number one,” Pope Prep coach Brian Sneed said of his star runner. “He runs people over but also he’s able to make guys miss at the second level. A few times they have a guy unblocked and he’s able to make him miss and get a few more yards and break some big ones.”
Robb scored all but one of Pope Prep’s touchdowns – the other coming on a 10-yard pass from freshman quarterback Hudson Holman to junior wide receiver Jackson Vonderharr. Holman completed 11-of-13 passes for 131 yards with one score and no interceptions.
Pope Prep built a 27-0 lead in the third quarter before Goodpasture quarterback J.D. Mastin put the Cougars on the board with a 14-yard run. He later connected with senior wide receiver Braxton Lawrence for a 20-yard scoring strike.
Mastin rushed for 80 yards and threw for another 73. Caleb Smith picked up 98 yards for Cougars, and Lucious Smiley added 71 yards on the ground.
Robb answered Goodpasture’s two scores with two of his own to keep the Cougars at bay.
“We knew it was going to be two teams that came in and were going to go at one another,” said Goodpasture coach Greg Cotten. “They just made a few more plays than we did.
“The first quarter kind of got away from us. But we settled down and we were able to move the ball. But it’s hard to be a running football team when you’re down two-to-three scores.
“I thought we competed hard,” Cotten said. “We continued to make some mistakes. But we’ll watch the film, we’ll grow from it. We’ll do better next week.”
Goodpasture fell to 2-3 and 0-2 in the region and will face another tough test next week when it takes on the CPA Lions.
Cotten’s team will have to “try to mitigate our mistakes, come back, and try to put a better product on the field on Friday at CPA.”
Pope Prep will also return to region action next week when traveling to Davidson Academy to take on the undefeated Bears.
But the Pope Prep players feel they’re picking up momentum after back-to-back wins. “I feel like we’re rolling,” Spicer said. “I feel like we’re going to keep this momentum going. We have another region game next week and we’ve just got to keep going to get a spot in the playoffs and hopefully get a bye week.”
The team learned from its early season struggles, Sneed said.
“We talk about fortitude being one of our core values, and perseverance through pain and adversity, and I think we learned that lesson in the first three games,” Sneed said. “I think we learned the way we were preparing in those first three weeks; we were not getting the outcome we wanted so we were able to change the way we were preparing. They started to understand the things we need to do to have a better outcome, and we’re seeing that play out on Friday nights, which is exciting.
“We’ve had two good wins in a row,” Sneed said. “It’s not just the wins, it’s how we are practicing. So we’re building momentum.”