Three local football teams advanced to the state semifinals by securing wins during Friday’s third round. SouthWest Edgecombe was the lone team to lose, falling to Northeastern 35-20.
Despite the 15-point margin, the Cougars had chances to win. In fact, SWE led 12-0 just over four minutes into the game. The team missed an extra point on the first touchdown, then opted for a two-point try on the second.
SWE’s leading rusher Demari Mabry was injured on the play and didn’t take a carry again. The lack of his presence made it difficult to run the ball as SWE gained 117 yards on the ground.
The defense, meanwhile, allowed back-to-back touchdown drives of 72 and 82 yards, respectively, as Northeastern built a 14-12 lead.
But the Cougars did make plays to get off the field before halftime. Northeastern was forced to punt after a run was stuffed for a 4-yard loss, followed by two sacks totaling minus-14 yards.
The SWE defense allowed just one touchdown in the second half, as the Eagles also scored two defensive touchdowns of their own.
Who’s under center?
Three different players threw passes for the Cougars, with starting quarterback Ray Wooten unavailable for the game. Jackson Lewis went 4-for-10 for 47 yards. Keishon Porter, who caught a touchdown pass from Lewis in the first quarter, saw time at quarterback and went 0-for-5 with three interceptions.
All three of Porter’s picks were on deep throws. The first came at the end of the first half, and the other two came in the fourth quarter with the Cougars backed in their own zone looking for a tying score.
The other passer saw his stats come from a bout of improvisation. The Cougars were facing a fourth-and-9 from their own 29 and planned to punt. The snap flew over the head of punter Cortezz Jones, who scooped up the ball and fired it down the sideline to Michael Hussey for 17 yards and a conversion.
It was Jones’ first passing attempt and Hussey’s first reception of the season. The unusual connection featured a running back (Jones) and a defensive back (Hussey).
The Firebirds are into the regional round for the first time since 2009.
Top-seeded Southern Nash dismantled Terry Sanford on Friday by a score of 59-21, and will host No. 3 Eastern Alamance. The Firebirds were knocked out of the playoffs by Eastern Alamance last season after the Eagles scored the game’s final 22 points in a second-round upset victory in Bailey.
The Firebirds (14-0) got here behind five rushing touchdowns from Quinton Cooley, who added 161 yards on the ground.
The favorites reign in Class 1-AA. The East and West semifinals feature the No. 1-and No. 2-seeded teams.
That includes the top-seeded Vikings, who are 13-0 and bearing down on a chance to compete for their third consecutive state championship. Tarboro hasn’t allowed a point yet this postseason with a 64-0 win in the second round and a 49-0 win in Friday’s third round.
The No. 1 Vikings will have to get past No. 2 Edenton Holmes, a team they dispatched 48-7 in the same round last season.
Still alive in the West bracket is No. 1 East Surry, which plays No. 2 Mitchell. Should both top seeds win, the Class 1-AA state championship game would be a rematch of last year’s title game.
The Warriors have won nine consecutive games and are one step away from competing for a state championship.
Second-seeded North Edgecombe will play fellow Tar Roanoke Conference resident and fourth-seeded Northampton County. The two teams played back on Oct. 4, with North Edgecombe winning over a short-handed Jaguars squad, 46-28.
The October conference matchup was the difference in winning the conference and finishing second.