Falcons down Aces

Published 12:38 pm Monday, September 29, 2008

EDENTON – It may not have been textbook football, but it produced a win.

Picking up where they left off a year ago, Bertie High continued their unbeaten streak in Northeastern Coastal Conference football play with a 12-7 league opening win over the Edenton Aces Friday night in Edenton.

The Falcons rode the strong running of junior tailback La’Manuel Murphy who finished the night with 130 yards on 26 carries on the ground and a pair of touchdowns. Quarterback Torrence Mourning had eight rushes for 19 yards while Keon Moore had a pair of catches for 25 yards.

Bertie’s defense was up to the challenge as well, collecting three interceptions and forcing an Edenton fumble.

They just couldn’t seem to convert it into points.

In typical ‘coach-speak’, Bertie coach Tony Hoggard pronounced himself pleased to have picked up the win, but was cautious in praise of his team who only managed two scores despite having a third more time on offense than their opponents.

“It’s a plus,” he said after the game. “It’s definitely a plus, but our ‘youthfulness’ showed tonight. We’ve got to go back to our fundamentals.”

The Falcons took the opening kickoff and marched 80 yards in 11 plays, capped by a four-yard plunge by Murphy between the tackles into the endzone for the first score. The Falcons went for a two-point conversion, but a sweep to the right-side by Murphy was stopped just short of the end zone, and the score remained 6-0.

On Edenton’s first possession, the Aces drove to the Bertie 39-yardline before Aces running back Tyquan Fleming coughed up the ball after a vicious hit from 6’7″ 300-pound junior defensive lineman Travis Bond and Thomas Perry fell on it for Bertie.

But the Falcons were stopped on their second drive and had to punt the ball away. The same with their third possession, which resulted in a punt just before the quarter ended with the Falcons ahead by six.

“We’ve got to be more consistent,” said Hoggard of the first-quarter effort. “We can’t go down and score and then have a letdown like that.”

Bertie’s first possession of the second quarter came after the Falcons intercepted Aces quarterback Daquan Ford on the Edenton 24-yardline, but instead of getting the ball within striking distance of the redzone, they had to begin the drive at the Edenton 35-yardline because of a penalty on the interception. Next came a bad snap that Mourning recovered which put Bertie nearly at mid-field. The Falcons recovered and drove to the Edenton 33 and went for it on fourth-and-eight, but the receiver dropped a wide open pass and the ball went over to Edenton.

With a minute left before halftime, Bertie’s Cardell Wilson collected Bertie’s second interception, but again the Falcons could not capitalize and the half ended with Bertie leading 6-0.

The Falcons opened the second half by going 67 yards, mostly on runs by Murphy, who capped the drive with a two-yard plunge for his second score of the night. Again, the conversion failed and the Falcons were up, 12-0.

Edenton came back to score a late touchdown on a run by Jariod Melton and point-after kick by Corey Sackrison with less than two minutes remaining in the game to only trail by five at 12-7 and then went for an onside kick. Bertie fell on the ball at midfield, but the pigskin squirted loose and the Aces recovered at the Bertie 47.

That’s when the defense stepped up, as Bond and Dominique Cherry stopped two Edenton runs for no gain. The Aces completed a short pass and then went for a hail-Mary pass on fourth-down, but Ford found no receivers open and was dropped at his own 48. Bertie then ran out the clock to nail down the win.

“Mental errors and breakdowns late in the game hurt us,” said Hoggard. “We’ll need a better effort than we gave tonight if we want to win the conference.

“But we’ll keep working,” he said with a sly smile, “and I think we’ll get it together one night this year.”

Despite losing four of their first five non-conference games to open the season, the Falcons have now won two in a row to raise their record to 2-and-4, and are 1-0 in the NCC. The Falcons host Pasquotank next Friday night in Windsor.