Hertford County survives Edenton comeback

Published 9:23 am Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...


Special to the R-C News-Herald

EDENTON – Former heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson once famously said, ‘Everybody has a game plan, until they get punched in the mouth’.

Friday night here Hertford County and Edenton Holmes, both 5-1 in league action, played to settle the second-place football finish in the Northeastern Coastal Conference. And while the Bears landed plenty of hay-makers, the persistent Aces slugged back and managed to hang in the game down to the final possession: a 64-57 Hertford County win.

The visiting Bears built a second-half lead of as many as 26 points (40-14), but had to end up holding off an Aces comeback as the home team outscored the visitors 43-30 in the final two quarters.

Points, you could tell by the score, were hardly at a premium.

Clawing their way back to get within seven with a minute and a half left to play, Edenton saw their last hope for a rebound fade as the Bears ran out the clock.

The end may have come sooner. Down by 14 (56-42), Edenton recovered a fumble on a muffed Hertford County kick-off and went in for a quick score with 4:49 left in the game, climbing to within seven (56-49). The Aces then kicked deep for a touchback leaving the Bears with 80 yards to go for possibly another score. Bears quarterback Keveon Rodgers made quick work of the distance with first a 19-yard pass play to Israel Powell. Then came the first of two Rodgers keepers: a long 39-yard sprint to the Edenton 21 and one last scoring run to push the lead back to 14 again.

However, by scoring with a minute-57 worth of ticks left on the clock, Edenton still had time to cement a rally.

Edenton wisely used those last two minutes: first with a 30 yard kick return then two runs of 40 yards that pulled within seven again with 1:26 left. Aces Coach Paul Hoggard used his final time-outs trying vainly to preserve time, but the Bears were able to burn away what remained with short runs before taking a knee and ending what had been a dramatic high-scoring affair.

Rodgers finished with 534 yards (306 rushing and 208 yards passing) more than four-fifth’s of Hertford County’s all-purpose 665 yards. He accounted for all but one of the team’s nine touchdowns – running for five and passing for two more. The other was scored on defense; by Powell on a pick-six. Powell also was on the receiving end of another pair of scores.

Both teams opened the game scoring on first possession: Hertford County going 57 yards in six plays capped by Rodgers’ 52 yard strike to Jamarcus White with Rodgers running in the two-point conversion and an 8-0 Bears lead.

Edenton answered just one minute-10 seconds later as Jailen Smith took in a 22-yard scoring toss from D.J. Capehart. However, the Aces kicked their point after, leaving them trailing 8-7.

The Bears made it two-for-two; marching 60 yards on four plays, capped by Rodgers’ first rushing touchdown, a short seven-yard jaunt to pay dirt.

Edenton went three-and-out, and despite a long third drive, Hertford County had their first punt of the game after eight plays. But things turned for the Bears on defense. Capehart was thrown for a two-yard loss by HCHS’s Brian Valentine, and on the next play Powell stepped in front of the Aces’ Ireal Hills and sprinted 34 yards untouched to the end zone. The two-point conversion had the Bears in front 22-7.

Edenton regrouped quickly. After starting at their own 33, Divon Ward had a 54 yard carry before Naijhir White’s 13 yard run and point-after kick had the Aces trailing by eight 22-14.

The Bears got six of those points back when Rodgers and Powell connected for the visitors’ next score and a 28-14 edge.

Starting in Bear territory on their next drive, Edenton drove to the 35-yard line after a delay-of-game penalty. On the very next play, Powell snatched his second interception on a pass play at the five yard line and returned it to the Bears; 28. Hertford County used up a minute in clock time before Rodgers skipped over from four yards out with 1:02 to play in the second quarter and a 20-point Bears lead, 34-14, that held up through halftime.

Edenton received the second-half kickoff, but went three-and-out. Hertford County then marched 94 yards, topped by Rodgers’ scoring pass to Juhuan Bond giving the Bears their largest lead of the game, 40-14.

But Edenton made it a game from there. The Aces scored on their next two possessions to climb within a dozen, 40-28 by the end of the third quarter.

The Bears opened the final stanza with a quick strike two-play drive, highlighted by a 66-yard scoring run straight up the middle by Rodgers, and Hertford County again led by 20, 48-28, to open the fourth quarter.

The teams then swapped scores, leaving the Bears ahead by 21, 56-35. Edenton’s next drive took three minutes, setting up the drama of the game’s final five minutes.

Powell led six Bear receivers with 106 yards in catches and one scoring grab to go with his pick-six.

For Edenton, Ward had 174 rushing yards and a pair of scores. Naijhir White also scored twice as part of seven Aces rushing touchdowns. Capehart passed for one score but he also had two interceptions to no turnovers by the Bears.

As the top second place 2A team, Hertford County (9-2) earned the number-11 seeding in the state playoffs and will host East Bladen of Elizabethtown at 7 p.m. Friday night at Bear Stadium.

Edenton is also at home to open the run to the state title. The 14th-seeded Aces (7-3) will entertain Southwest Edgecombe.