East Rockingham eliminates Eagles

Published 1:45 am Saturday, November 12, 2016

Prince Edward County High School’s varsity football team could not keep up with host East Rockingham High School’s superb passing attack Friday night, and it led to a 51-13 season-ending loss in the first round of the Region 2A East playoffs.

“They didn’t do anything we didn’t prepare for,” Prince Edward Head Coach James Ford said. “They were just better than us. They just came out, and they executed better than what we did.”

The No. 4-seeded East Rockingham Eagles (8-3) jumped out to a 6-0 lead two minutes and 47 seconds into the game. But the No. 13-seeded Prince Edward Eagles responded quickly, as senior Joel Thomas passed to sophomore Rah’Quan Payne for a 43-yard touchdown with 7:20 left in the first quarter. The extra point gave the visiting Eagles their only lead of the game.

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Led by senior quarterback Jaylen McNair, who surpassed 5,000 yards passing for his career during the game, the home team wasted little time in going back on top, scoring on a 61-yard touchdown pass 18 seconds later.

“Early on when it was 14-7, we were in the game, but once they jumped on us, they kept the pressure on,” Ford said.

East Rockingham scored on a 34-yard pass with 8:10 left in the half to help make it 21-7.

Prince Edward’s offense could not get into East Rockingham territory on its next two possessions, and the visiting Eagles had to punt in both cases. With the wind playing a factor, neither kick traveled far.

The first punt put East Rockingham on the Prince Edward 17-yard line, and the host Eagles ended up scoring on a 2-yard run with 6:07 to go in the half. The second punt put East Rockingham on the Prince Edward 19-yard line, and the home team ended up scoring on a 6-yard run with 4:47 remaining until halftime.

Trailing 35-7, the visiting Eagles had their next drive cut short by a fumble that gave East Rockingham the ball near midfield. It took the ball downfield, benefiting from another big pass, and scored on a 1-yard run, bringing the score to 41-7 with 2:26 still left in the half.

“Turnovers played a huge deal,” Ford said. “We can’t turn the ball over against a good team. To upset good teams, you’ve got to play almost flawless.”

Prince Edward turned the ball over again on a fumble in the third quarter, giving the host Eagles possession on the Prince Edward 13-yard line, but the visiting Eagles managed to keep East Rockingham out of the end zone, holding it to a 28-yard field goal.

“Defensively, we gave up some big plays, but we were able to get some stops,” Ford said.

Senior Markeem Trent led his team with 10 total tackles for the game to go with one forced fumble. Junior Khalil Smith, sophomore J’Sean Dupuy, senior Trey Wright and sophomore James Morgan had eight total tackles apiece, with the latter two also having one forced fumble each. Morgan added one sack.

In the first minute of the fourth quarter, senior Brandon “Tray” Scott gave Prince Edward fans reason to cheer when he weaved his way through the East Rockingham defense on a 72-yard touchdown run to make the score 44-13.

Scott finished the game with 15 carries for 94 yards and a score, four kickoff returns for 75 yards and two receptions for eight yards.

The teams traded fumbles later in the fourth quarter, and one by Prince Edward at its own 12-yard line led to East Rockingham’s final score on a 12-yard run.

The visiting Eagles lost Thomas in the second quarter due to injury, putting more pressure on junior Zion Lewis to lead the offense.

“Of course, losing a senior and a leader of your team is big, but Zion did a great job,” Ford said.

Lewis went 8-for-16 passing for 40 yards and also had seven carries for 31 yards. Thomas went 4-for-5 passing for 56 yards and one touchdown.

Senior Bryan Moses had five receptions for 20 yards, Smith had two for 17 yards and Dupuy had one carry for 32 yards.

The Prince Edward Eagles finished the season with a 5-6 record, demonstrating growth as the year went on.

“When we were 1-3, they could have easily laid down, and we could have finished 1-9, and this team continued to fight, got a big win against Bluestone, a playoff team, and went to 2-3,” Ford said. “And they went to Goochland, and Goochland’s a tough team, but they continued to fight. They came out the next three games and played extremely well, extremely hard, and was able to get to 5-4. And then we kind of shot ourselves in the foot this playoff game and (against) Buckingham, but for the most part, this team kept fighting, and that is what I’m most proud of. This team didn’t give up.”