Falcons rally past Swansboro

Published 11:44 pm Friday, August 31, 2012

WINDSOR – Greg Watford has preached patience for three seasons.

Now the Bertie High School Football Coach is preaching – and getting – results.

Last night at Roy L. Bond Jr. Stadium, the Falcons rallied from a fourth quarter deficit to defeat Swansboro High School 34-21 and improve to 2-1 this season. The win, couple with a forfeit this coming week from KIPP Pride, means the Falcons will enter league play 3-1 and just one win shy of last season’s victory total.

“This means a lot for the program,” Watford said Friday night. “We beat a good team; a team that’s going to finish in the upper echelon of their conference and a team we could well see again in the playoffs.”

Watford said the biggest step for the program was not the win, but the way his team went about it.

“We had some things go wrong and we fought back from adversity and won,” he said. “The last two years we weren’t mature enough to do that.”

The Falcons made short work of their opponents in the first quarter. Aundrea Leary recovered a Swansboro fumble and gave his team the football on the Pirates 21-yardline.

From there, it took just  three plays for the Falcons to find paydirt as Jaquil Hafiz went in from nine yards out at the 3:58 mark of the first quarter. Luke Davis added the PAT and Bertie led 7-0.

The lead was short-lived and the touchdown set off a crazy 30-second interval of game time that saw 21 points scored.

Deandre Thompkins answered for Swansboro on the ensuing kickoff, picking up the football at the 16-yardline and returning all the way to paydirt. Tyler Lohr added the extra point and just 15 seconds later, the game was tied at 7-all.

Hafiz was having nothing of that, however, as he returned the Swansboro kickoff 75 yards to paydirt. Davis again was true with the point after and, with 3:28 to play in the first quarter, the Falcons led 14-7.

While those three successive plays were exciting, the rest of the quarter was pretty mundane. The Pirates turned the ball over on downs on their next possession and Bertie drove all the way to the 15-yardline before penalties forced them to give the ball back on the 14-yardline.

From there, the teams simply exchanged possessions for the remainder of the half.

That remained the case in the third quarter as well until the Pirates came out in the Wildcat formation and switched up the speed of the game. The new offense allowed Thompkins more freedom and his running helped Swansboro move the football from their own 38-yardline all the way to the one-yardline

From there, quarterback Chris Phipps carried it in on a keeper which, combined with Lohr’s extra point, tied the game at 14-all with just 24 ticks left on the third quarter clock.

The game was far from over, however.

On the next possession, Watford was unhappy with the blocking and running and used the timeout between the third and fourth quarters to voice his displeasure. His team took it to heart.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Hafiz took the handoff and raced 71 yards to the endzone. The extra point failed, but Bertie maintained a 20-14 lead.

Like the advantage in the first quarter, it was erased quickly.

It was again Phipps who made the Falcons pay as he raced 70 yards on the next play and Lohr added the conversion, meaning the Falcons trailed for the first time at 21-20.

As Watford indicated, the Falcons teams of old may have been in trouble, but this one showed its maturity.

Bertie simply came out, lined up and drove 45 yards on six plays to retake the lead for good. Hafiz, sophomore quarterback David Watford and senior running back Jonathan Wilson all had yardage on the drive.

It was Hafiz who stuck it in for the go-ahead score, however, when he capped the drive with a three-yard plunge. Davis was true on the PAT and the Falcons had reclaimed the lead at 27-21.

Then it was the defense’s turn to handle Swansboro. On the ensuing drive, Deshondre Day picked off a Thompkins pass and returned it 20 yards for a score. Davis added the conversion and the Falcons had a 34-21 lead with 7:31 to play in the contest.

The Bertie defense had a stop on the next Swansboro possession, but a Falcon turnover gave the ball right back.

As it appeared the Pirates were set to make a game of it, however, Nagei Lee hit Phipps as he was throwing and Shykie Mitchell intercepted the football and sealed the victory.

Bertie punted again after three plays, but Mitchell picked off another aerial with 19 seconds left to seal the deal.

“The defense was key for us tonight,” Watford said. “I know Thompkins had his fair share of yardage, but we stopped him when it counted. He’s one of the better backs in the state, so I think that says something.

“I think we’re starting to get our identify back,” he added. “We’re still growing, still learning and still getting better every week.”

The Falcons will be off next week due to the forfeit and will return to action Sept. 14 at Edenton. The Falcons haven’t started 3-1 since ncpreps.com began compiling stats in 2004.