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Bertie wins a close one

WINDSOR – It took almost the full 48 minutes to decide a winner.

Last night (Friday) Bertie High School and Northern Nash each came in 0-4 and looking for that elusive first football victory of the 2008 season.

The game was tied with less than a minute to play before the Falcons found a way to get into the endzone with 28 ticks left on the clock and secure a 28-22 win.

But, while the teams battled it was La’Manuel Murphy that stole the show, carrying the football 31 times and picking up 251 yards on the ground, all but 13 yards of Bertie’s total rushing output.

After stopping Northern Nash on a fourth-and-two at their own 37-yardline with under a minute remaining, the Falcons took five plays to go 37 yards and wrap up victory number one.

After an incompletion, Bertie quarterback Torrence Mourning connected with Chris Richardson on a 13-yard gain down to the 24. Moments later, he found Murphy on a 16-yard pickup to set up first-and-goal at the eight-yardline with 35 seconds remaining.

On the next play, Mourning pulled the ball down and appeared to be heading to the endzone, but looked up and found Jermiah Harrell wide open in the corner and competed the eight-yard touchdown pass. The conversion failed, but Bertie had claimed a 28-22 lead with just 28 seconds to play.

After the ensuing kickoff, Northern had just one play from scrimmage before Bertie defender Bryce Cullipher intercepted a pass to seal the victory.

The game had also started well for the Falcons. After forcing and three-and-out by the Knights, the Falcons marched 84 yards on eight plays to take the early lead. Mourning completed passes of seven (to Isaiah Allen) and 10 yards (to Keon Moore) to pick up back-to-back first downs.

When the drive appeared to be stalling after two short gains, Murphy juked a trio of defenders and raced 58 yards to paydirt. The score came with 7:19 to play in the first quarter and gave the Falcons an early 6-0 lead.

Northern Nash struck back quickly, however. On the next play from scrimmage, Mark McCaddey raced 74 yards to paydirt. The conversion failed, but the score was tied with 6:52 still remaining on the first quarter clock.

After forcing a Bertie punt, the Knights took the lead on their next possession. After taking over at their own 32-yardline, Northern scored on their first play as Rashard Hedgepeth reached the endzone on a 68-yard run. The conversion, despite being played from the 18-yardline after a penalty, was good when McCaddey scored and Northern led 14-6.

The fireworks were quiet for the rest of the first quarter, but the scoring started again early in the second period. Bertie’s Dominique Cherry intercepted a pass at the 15-yardline and returned it to the four.

After a pair of plays netted a total of minus seven yards, Murphy scored from 11 yards out when he drug three Knight defenders into the endzone with him. Murphy added the conversion and the game was knotted at 14-all.

Neither team found the endzone the remainder of the first half, but Northern wasted little time hitting paydirt in the third quarter.

After forcing a Bertie fumble, the Knights took over on their own 23-yardline. Two plays later, the Knights scored on a 77-yard pass play. The conversion was good as well as Northern took a 22-14 lead.

The Falcons tied it up with 33 seconds to play in the third quarter when Murhpy capped a six-play, 50-yard drive with a 35-yard scamper to paydirt. He had all 50 yards on the drive. Murphy also scored the conversion which left the game tied heading into the final period of play.

After Cherry recovered a Northern Nash fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter, the Falcons appeared to be heading to take the lead. They drove 37 yards on nine plays, mostly Murphy runs, and reached the five-yardline, but gave the ball up on downs.

Northern stopped another Bertie drive at the 28-yardline with 2:28 to play. After three plays, the visiting team faced fourth-and-two and decided to gamble at their own 37-yardline. The Falcon defense held, however, setting up the last scoring drive.

Bertie had 321 yards of total offense, 264 on the ground and 57 through the air.

Northern put together 312 yards of total offense, including 223 on the ground.

Bertie improved to 1-4 for the season after their fifth non-conference game. They will open Northeastern Coastal Conference play next week at Edenton.