Explosive Eagles deal Bears its first loss

Published 11:50 am Friday, September 30, 2022

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AHOSKIE – When a high school football team racks up 465 yards of total offense and scores six touchdowns, it’s reasonable to assume they were victorious in their efforts.

However, all bets are off when longtime rivals Northeastern and Hertford County meet on the gridiron.

The visiting Eagles punched it into the endzone on their final drive of the first half; reached paydirt with the opening possession of the second half, and added three touchdowns over a span of two minutes and 23 seconds in the fourth quarter en route to a 67-39 win over the Bears here Thursday night.

The game was originally scheduled for Friday, but the local threat of bad weather associated with Hurricane Ian altered that plan.

Instead of Ian blowing into Ahoskie, the Eagles came to town and roughed up the Bears to the tune of 10 touchdowns and 627 yards of offense from scrimmage. Northeastern also continued their recent string of success vs. Hertford County. Counting Thursday night’s victory, the Eagles have won nine of the past 11 meetings between the two schools. The last time HCHS defeated Northeastern at home was 2016 (a narrow 13-12 win by the Bears).

Thursday’s game, on several occasions, had all the markings of one that would go down to the wire.

Tied at 19-19 late in the second quarter, the Eagles set up shop at their own 26 following a HCHS punt. Highlighted by five pass completions by Jalen Melson totaling 42 yards and a 23-yard run from Tyselle Spencer, the Eagles moved 74 yards in 12 plays capped by Spencer’s one-yard TD run with 14 seconds left until halftime. Hertford County’s Devontae Cofield blocked the PAT, but the Eagles held a 25-19 lead at the break.

Northeastern opened the second half with an eight play, 58-yard drive highlighted by four runs from Spencer totaling 48 yards; part of his game-high 252 rushing yards on 30 carries. Shamar Sutton finished the drive with a short three-yard blast to paydirt. The conversion pass failed, but Northeastern had extended their lead to 31-19 at the 9:29 mark of the third period.

Hertford County responded, using a pair of passes by Keveon Rodgers (13 yards to Jarmarcus White and 9 yards to Jayden Robinson) to set the table for Rodgers to reel off a tackle-breaking touchdown run of 59 yards. Caleb Barnes booted the PAT as the Bears crept to within 31-26 with 6:55 left in the third quarter.

On the game’s ensuing possession, Eagles skipper Antonio Moore saw his gamble pay off when he called a fake punt from Northeastern’s 27 yardline. Shymeer Williams ran for 17 yards and a first down to keep that drive alive. Set up by a 24-yard pass from Melson to Tyell Saunders and a 30-yard scamper by Sutton, the Eagles scored four plays later on a three-yard run by Spencer. The conversion run failed, but the Eagles owned a 37-26 advantage with 4:14 left in the third period.

The Bears answered quickly, driving 73 yards in just four plays capped by a 38-yard touchdown strike from Rodgers to Isreal Powell. Barnes tacked on the PAT as the Bears trailed by just four points (37-33) entering the fourth quarter.

But that’s as close as it got for Hertford County as the Eagles exploded for three touchdowns in less than two and one-half minutes of the final period.

Spencer scored two of those TD’s on runs covering 4 and 62 yards – the latter of which coming two plays after Alonzo Biddle recovered a Bears fumble, one of three second half turnovers by HCHS. Sutton tallied the other touchdown on a 33-yard blast.

Hertford County’s lone touchdown of the fourth quarter came when Elijah Outlaw returned a kickoff 73 yards.

The Eagles, with their second team on the field, added a late touchdown run by Randall Ferguson following a 10-play drive set-up by a fumble recovery by Williams.

Northeastern, who improved to 4-2 overall and 3-0 in conference action, never trailed as Sutton opened the scoring by flashing his speed during a 66-yard punt return for a touchdown at the 9:49 mark of the first quarter. In addition to his kick return duties, Sutton added 121 rushing yards on just eight carries and caught seven passes for 78 yards.

Rodgers responded for the Bears, orchestrating a four play, 65-yard drive that he ended with a 15-yard run to paydirt. Rodgers would finish the game with 291 total yards (154 rushing and 137 passing).

On the game’s ensuing possession, Northeastern drove 57 yards in 12 plays capped by a five-yard TD run by Jaylin Mallory as the Eagles increased their lead to 13-6 with 1:58 left in the opening period.

Hertford County answered just 20 seconds later when, on first down from the Bears 37 yardline, Outlaw bounced outside and streaked 63 yards down the visitor’s sideline for a touchdown. The conversion pass failed, leaving the Bears facing a 13-12 deficit.

Both teams traded touchdowns over the opening nine minutes of the second quarter. Northeastern found the endzone thanks to a three-yard run by Sutton while the Bears answered with a 30-yard scamper by Outlaw, part of his 148-yard rushing performance, to tie the game at 19-19.

Hertford County, who suffered their first loss of the season (5-1; 2-1) will look to bounce back next week when the Bears travel to First Flight for a 7 p.m. game on Oct. 7.

Northeastern is at home on Oct. 7, hosting Camden County in a 7 p.m. conference clash.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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