Eagles come through in the clutch

Published 6:28 am Saturday, October 22, 2016

It looked like the home team had written a storybook ending to its homecoming game Friday night, but visiting Prince Edward County High School’s varsity football team did a last-minute rewrite.

Randolph-Henry High School claimed its first lead of the game, 40-39, with a minute and 30 seconds remaining.

Then, the Eagles, who had twice led by 19 earlier in the game, put together a clutch final drive. It was capped by a 13-yard catch-and-run touchdown by senior Brandon “Tray” Scott from senior Joel Thomas with 16.5 seconds left to lift Prince Edward to a 45-40 victory.

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“We put the ball in our quarterback and receivers’ hands, and they did the job,” Eagles Head Coach James Ford said. “They did everything that we executed during the week, our 2-minute drill. They put it together, and I’m very proud of them, very proud that they were able to get back into it after Randolph-Henry took the lead.”

Already in position to make the playoffs entering the game, Prince Edward strengthened its position in the region by going above .500 with its latest win.
“I’m not going kid you, it feels great,” Ford said of his team’s win-loss record. “It’s been awhile (since) we’ve been above .500 at this point in the season.”

Scott, who has been a huge presence for the Eagles in the backfield as of late, gave his team a 6-0 lead with 4:49 left in the first quarter. The lead doubled a minute and 52 seconds into the second quarter when junior Zion Lewis passed to senior Bryan Moses to initiate an 89-yard catch-and-run touchdown.

The Statesmen cut the lead to 12-6 with 6:51 left in the half, but the Eagles scored eight seconds later when Thomas found junior Aneal Walker wide open for a 53-yard touchdown that made the score 18-6.

During their next possession, the Statesmen turned the ball over on downs. Prince Edward, benefiting from more strong passing by Thomas, scored again when he completed a 13-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Rah’Quan Payne with 1:15 left in the quarter.

The Eagles led 25-6 at halftime, but Randolph-Henry scored on its first two drives of the second half, making the score 25-20.

However, momentum immediately shifted back to Prince Edward on the ensuing kickoff, which Walker returned 75 yards for a touchdown. Scott ran in the 2-point conversion, and the score was 33-20.

“I think the kickoff return was a major point in the game,” Statesmen Head Coach Mark McPherson said. “And maybe that’s the difference in the game — a special teams play.”

The Statesmen could not respond on their next possession, and the Eagles got the ball back at Randolph-Henry’s 42-yard line, which is where Scott ran the ball in from for another touchdown with 1:20 left in the third. This built the Eagles lead to 39-20.

But on their next two possessions, the Statesmen again climbed back into contention, scoring on a 40-yard run by junior Tyrie Blow-Tydings and a 4-yard run by senior Chris Powell to make the scoreboard read 39-32 with 7:15 left in the game.

To the delight of the large homecoming crowd, Randolph-Henry’s defense forced the Eagles to punt, and the offense drove and cut the lead to 39-38 on a 20-yard touchdown pass that Powell lofted over the Prince Edward defense to senior Jonathan Randolph.

There was little-to-no thought of going for just an extra point, and Powell ran in the 2-point conversion. The Statesmen suddenly led 40-39 with 1:30 remaining.

“We didn’t let them into the game,” Ford said. “They played their way into the game. Hats off to them — they played hard.”

Prince Edward’s Scott appeared to return the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, but it was called back. The Eagles started their final drive with 1:24 remaining at the Statesmen 35-yard line.

Later, they moved to the Randolph-Henry 14 after a defensive pass interference call.

A couple plays after that, Thomas went to pass, did not find his primary targets and checked down to Scott, who was waiting on the left side. Scott caught the ball, drove forward and darted around a defender to score from 13 yards out with 16.5 seconds on the clock.

“I trusted the o-line, I trusted the receivers to make plays, and at the end of the day, we came out on top, and I guess that’s all that really matters,” Thomas said.

The Statesmen threatened but could not pull off a miracle in the final seconds.

For the game, Thomas went 8-for-16 passing for 153 yards and three touchdowns, Moses had two catches for 100 yards and a touchdown, Walker had two catches for 99 yards and a score, Payne had three catches for 24 yards and a score and Scott had the one 13-yard catch.

Scott also finished with 21 carries for 137 yards and two touchdowns.

Leading the Eagles on defense was sophomore James Morgan with 13 total tackles, including two for a loss. Senior Markeem Trent had 12 total tackles, including three for a loss, and one sack, and senior Trey Wright recorded eight total tackles, three passes defended and one forced fumble.

Prince Edward (5-4) has a bye this week and closes out its regular season schedule by hosting Buckingham County High School (1-7) on Friday, Nov. 4, at 7 p.m.