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Mistakes costly in Rams loss

CREEKSVILLE – Two critical mistakes – one on the sideline and the other on the field – cost Northampton-East a chance to win their home football finale here last night (Friday).

But despite their own mistakes, the Rams came razor close to still snatching a win from the jaws of defeat as East fell by two (24-22) against league foe Weldon on Senior Night in Creeksville.

The setback snapped a three-game winning streak for the Rams, who fell to 4-5 overall and dropped their first Tar-Roanoke Conference game of the season (now at 3-1 in league action). NCHS-East concludes their regular season with road games at Louisburg (Oct. 24) and at Southeast Halifax (Nov. 7).

Friday’s contest took two bad turns against the home team.

The first came with the Rams up 14-8 in the second quarter and facing a 4th-and-six from their own 41 yardline. Head coach Greg Watford rolled the dice at that point, but it came up “snake eyes” as quarterback Phillip Dickens was sacked for a 10-yard loss, giving Weldon the ball in great field position at the Rams 31 yardline.

Six plays later, Weldon’s Joseph McGee scored from four yards out and, coupled with Tyree Barnes’ conversion run, the Chargers took the lead for-keeps at 16-14 with 31 seconds left before halftime.

The second costly mistake ended what may have been a productive drive by the Rams early in the second half. Starting from their own 29 yardline, a key 25-yard run by Dickens helped NCHS-East drive to Weldon’s 38 yardline, but Dickens lost a fumble three plays later and the Chargers took over at their own 38.

That turnover eventually produced points for the guests as Weldon drove 62 yards in 10 plays capped by McGee’s two-yard run and his “deuce” on the conversion as the Chargers built a 10-point spread (24-14) at the 3:50 mark of the third period.

NCHS-East came right back as a 40-yard scamper by Corey Neal (part of his team-high 137 rushing yards for the night) highlighted an eight play, 78-yard march capped by Neal’s three-yard TD run on the first snap of the fourth quarter. On the conversion, the Rams lined-up for the PAT kick, but a heavy Weldon rush forced Dickens, the holder, to wisely rise to his feet and toss the two-point conversion pass to a wide-open Neal. That got the Rams as close as 24-22.

The Rams had their chances down the stretch, but lost another fumble while sitting in good field position at their own 43 yardline following a punt.

Meanwhile, a key stop by the Rams defense prevented Weldon from putting the game on-ice. Back-to-back defensive plays by Neal (tackled a Weldon runner for a 13-yard loss on a reverse) and a quarterback sack (-8 yards) by Ricky Clay on a 4th down play turned the ball back over to the Rams offense, but NCHS-East failed to find a last-second miracle.

The Rams used two big plays in the early going to race to a 14-0, first quarter lead.

After a three-and-out by Weldon to start the game, Northampton’s Charles Cumbo fielded a punt at his own 34 yardline, darted straight up the middle of the field and, using a teeth-chattering block from Rudolph Bishop, scored on a 66-yard kick return.

Later in the first quarter, the Rams were pinned deep in their own territory, but not for long as Dickens reeled off a 78-yard TD run. Keshawn Garris added both PAT’s for a 14-0 lead.

Weldon sliced the lead to 14-8, marching 61 yards in 12 plays capped by Barnes’ three-yard TD blast and his conversion run at the 5:11 mark of the second quarter.

Barnes was the game’s leading rusher with 152 yards on 26 carries.