Falcons roll to round two

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 9, 2007

WINDSOR – Coach Tony Hoggard won’t say revenge was on his team’s mind when they lined up against SouthWest Edgecombe in the first round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A state football playoffs.

‘Remembrance’ is a little more polite.

&uot;I told the guys to remember how you felt last year (when the Cougars eliminated the Falcons in the second round at Pinetops, 33-20),” mused Hoggard, &uot;when we went into halftime with a lead and then a big play and then three turnovers hurt us and we never could stop what they were doing.&uot;

This year it was a different ending, but so much of the same script as in ’06: holding a slim 20-18 lead with less than five minutes left in the game, the Falcons got an interception for a touchdown and then on the ensuing kickoff turned a fumble into six more points and held off a late rally to win, 36-24, and advance to next week’s second round.

And all of that coming in just 30 seconds of game time.

Senior fullback Kevin Swain scored two first-half touchdowns while Desmond &uot;D.D.&uot; Williams passed for one touchdown and ran back an interception for another.

Khirye Jones recovered a fumble and ran it in for the final touchdown to complete the Bertie scoring.

The Falcons opened the game with a successful drive going 65 yards in eight plays with Swain and quarterback Williams commanding the offense. Falcon fans held their breath during the drive as senior receiver Darius Wesson was wrestled down hard on a 10-yard pass play from Williams and Wesson limped off the field and did not return for the rest of the game.  Swain closed out the drive with a five-yard run to paydirt to put Bertie up, 6-0.

The Falcon defense appeared to have stopped the Cougars’ vaunted wishbone offense on SouthWest Edgecombe’s first drive; but on the punt, Williams fumbled the catch and SouthWest recovered on Bertie’s nine-yard line. 

Two plays later, tailback James Jenkins plunged over from the four-yard line for the equalizer and it was tied, 6-6 after the first quarter.

Bertie went ahead with less than two minutes to play in the half as the Falcons capitalized on a nice ball-control drive capped by a one-yard plunge by Swain to make the score 12-6.  Raymond Hooker blasted in for a two-point conversion and Bertie led, 14-6, and held that lead into halftime.

SouthWest came out inspired in the third quarter, scoring twice in less than four minutes.

Marcus Brown took the opening kickoff 57 yards to the Bertie 14-yard line and three plays later, despite a penalty, Warrior quarterback Greg Horne hit tailback Roger Evans out of the backfield from 11 yards out to pull within two at 14-12 after the two-point conversion failed.

Bertie’s first drive stalled and backup punter Rodrek Lee mishandled the snap on fourth down and was tackled at his own 19-yard line.  After a short Evans gain, Horne passed for his second score of the night seventeen yards to Jarrian Brown and SouthWest took their first lead of the game at 18-14 and held it into the fourth quarter.

It appeared the Warriors would add to their score when Bertie fumbled on their next possession near midfield, but the Falcons defense stepped up with a key stop by Travis Bond and a Horne incompletion forced SouthWest to punt to the Bertie 20-yard line.

Just before the drive began, Hoggard called time out.

&uot;I said look guys, we’ve come too far to give up now,&uot; said the coach after the game. &uot;We’ve made mistakes and we had turnovers that cost us the lead but from this point on we’ve got to play all out, and they responded.  They stepped their game up&uot;.

The pep talk must’ve worked as the Falcons drove down and reclaimed the lead on a 12-yard run by Williams to put the Falcons back on top, 20-18.

And that’s when the fireworks began.

On the second play of SouthWest’s drive Williams, playing defensive back, stepped in front of a Horne toss at the Warrior 31-yard line and took the interception dancing his way down the right sideline avoiding tacklers into the end zone for his second score of the night and first on defense as the Bertie fans roared their approval.

SouthWest seemed to collect itself for the ensuing kickoff, but Falcon defender Raymond Hooker put a vicious hit on SouthWest’s Marcus Brown after the catch at the Warrior 15-yard line jarring the ball loose. Khirye Jones scooped up the loose pigskin and scampered untouched into the end zone sending the Bertie crowd into a frenzy.

The Falcons would surrender a late touchdown with less than four minutes to play, but when the Warriors’ onside kick went out of bounds, the Falcons took over near midfield and ran out the clock to preserve the win. 

Bertie finished with 333 total yards of offense, 299 of those yards on the ground.  Swain had 175 yards on thirty carries while Hooker added 21 more yards on five carries.

Williams completed the ground attack, rushing sixteen times for 103 yards.  Williams also went 3-for-11 passing for 34 yards.

&uot;Special teams kind of helped us early on,&uot; said a disappointed Warrior coach Ray Cobb after the game, &uot;but then it turned in their favor in the fourth quarter. Credit them for driving the ball and then making those big plays after that.&uot;

&uot;You’re not in the playoffs because you’re a weak team,&uot; said Hoggard. &uot;You’re going to get some scores and you’re going to give up some scores, but you’ve got to keep fighting the whole game.&uot;

Bertie will have another home game next Friday night as 13th seed West Craven upset fourth-seed Eastern Alamance in Mebane, 35-20.