Eagles fall in title tilt

Published 10:26 am Tuesday, November 17, 2015

KINSTON – History, a wise man once said, never looks like history when you’re living through it.

Maybe Northeast Academy felt a bit of that on Saturday in the NC Independent Schools Athletic Association 1A Football Championship game. The Eagles were making history appearing in the game for the first time in school history, but key injuries and turnovers left them in a hole early and they weren’t able to come back against Southampton Academy, falling to the Raiders 56-14.

The 1A championship game was played at Arendell Parrott Academy in Kinston.

“These kids have nothing to hang their heads over,” said fifth-year coach Stevie Flythe. “I’m just proud of this team. I don’t know what else you can say about them, they had a great season and they made history.”

Under cloudless skies and with a crowd of over a hundred fans dressed out in red and white that made the trip down US 258, the Eagles were hoping to book-end their season with a win over the Raiders. Southampton had won the first game of the season back in Lasker 50-44. The Eagles, meanwhile, had played their way into the title game with a 58-22 first-round win over Community Christian. In that win, Northeast scored 58 straight points after falling behind early.

History would not repeat itself again.

Winning the coin toss, but deferring to the second half, Northeast kicked off, but it was a sqibbler, and Southampton recovered on the 50-yard line. Quarterback Andrew Lowe called his own number on all four plays, the last one being a 26 yard sprint to the end zone. He also ran in the conversion and the Raiders led it 8-0.

Northeast’s first drive began deep in their own territory on the 23. Quarterback Matt Little and tailback Peyton Galloway made two runs to pick up a first down, but on the next play Little was intercepted on the Southampton 43 yard line.

Lowe and company went to work again and drove the distance in seven plays, the last one a four-yard run by fullback Roy Hill for the score. The run failed, but the Raiders were in front 14-0.

Southampton did an onside kick that Northeast thought they’d recovered, but Tyler Dodson wrestled it away and the Raiders were back on offense. Another seven-play drive ended this time with Lowe scoring his second touchdown on a two-yard plunge, then passing for the conversion that made it 22-0, Southampton.

The third possession proved the charm for the Eagles. They got two quick first downs on Southampton penalties and crossed mid-field. Little and Galloway made a pair of runs down to the Raider 24 where Fullback Curtis Faulkner took a handoff and went between the tackles up the middle for Northeast’s first score. Little passed to Galloway on the conversion and the Eagles only trailed 22-8 as the first quarter came to an end.

Northeast made a good time-consuming drive to open the second quarter, but it was costly. On the first play receiver Nathan Rowe was tackled hard and suffered a shoulder injury; he would not return taking a sizeable chuck of the NEA offense with him. Still, the Eagles fought on, down to the Southampton 20 before Little was intercepted again, this time at the Raider 38. It took Southampton one play: a 62-yard run by Lowe for his third score of the afternoon and that made it 28-8, and that score would hold up through halftime.

“We had some momentum going,” said Flythe. “We drove down the field but we just couldn’t score. Not scoring there on the drive before halftime was really big because it took a little bit of life out of us. We were still in it, but that was a big swing.”

The Eagles looked to make it up quickly. Three scores and three stops and they were right back in the game.

McKinley Jordan’s second half kickoff return set the Eagles up at their own 29. Little then scrambled 49 yards to the Southampton 13. However, two short runs and a penalty had NEA on the 11 yard line. Scrambling on the next play, Little threw up a wobbler that became his third interception at the two-yard line.

Southampton then scored two quick touchdowns, one set up by another Little pick, and the Eagles were staring up at a 42-8 deficit.

However, on Northeast’s next possession, Galloway galloped 73 yards down the sideline for a score and the Eagle offense breathed new life, but they were still down, 42-14.

Southampton got one more score with seven seconds remaining in the period to take a 48-14 lead into the final quarter.

Battered, but not out, Northeast tried to mount a couple of drives, but twice the ball went over on downs. Southampton added one more garbage touchdown before the horned sounded to give the Raiders their first state title since 2012.

“To have come through what we came through in just this year alone was such an accomplishment,” said Flythe, who became emotional when addressing his players – especially his seniors – for the last time.

“Just a few breaks and things might have been different,” said Little, who was named to the 1A All-Conference team, as well as sharing Co-Offensive Player of the Year honors with Lowe. “I’m really going to miss football.”

The Northeast fans gave the team a rousing round of applause as they received their runner-up medallions and the second-place trophy. The first time in 40 years the Eagles had received such an honor.

“We’ll start off working hard next summer,” said Flythe. “This has given us something now to work for.”

TITLE TIDBITS: Host Parrott Academy won the 2A championship game played later Saturday night with a 28-14 win over St. David’s School.

In addition to Little, Galloway and Cody Wells also made the 2015 All-Conference team. Other local members of the squad included a trio of players from Lawrence Academy: Bryant Goodwin, Tyler Jones, and William Nelson. Southampton had the most players named to the squad with seven.