LAW falls in league championship game

Published 4:50 pm Tuesday, November 1, 2022

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Special to the RC News-Herald

ROANOKE RAPIDS – No matter that fortune is sometimes fickle. That’s why we play the games.

The Lawrence Academy/Albemarle School co-op 8-Man football team left it all out on the field here Thursday in the championship game of the Colonial Carolina Conference.

And none of the encouragement, rah-rah, and hoopla could help them as Halifax Academy took a 26-18 win to claim the crown.

Never mind that just two short weeks earlier the Vikings had humbled the Green-and-Gold with a 62-18 butt kicking on this same field, and having smacked every league opponent in their last three games (not including a forfeit win over Northeast Academy) by an average juggernaut-like score of 59-0.

But things were different on this night.

LAAS matched the home squad the entire game, losing it only in the closing minutes courtesy of an unwanted and unwelcome turnover.

“The kids played hard,” said a stoic head coach Jerry Ford afterward. “This was our game, and I’m not disappointed about anything.”

“We played great football,” he added with a sly smile. “But in the end, it was a little one-sided.”

LAAS set the defensive tone on the game’s first possession as Vikings quarterback Braxton Hammack fumbled and LAAS’ Brendon Wooten pounced on the loose pigskin. However, they failed to advance and were forced to punt after a three-and-out. Punter Oliver Anderson got a bad snap and only managed a two-yard punt to the LAAS 25. The Vikings took advantage of such great field position and needed just four plays to find the end zone. However, they were penalized on the point-after try and a six-yard run failed leaving the score at 6-0, Halifax.

LAAS would get the equalizer on their next series. Starting with a short field after an onside kick, the visitors drove 19 yards on three of four straight running plays by Mari Larry to the Vikings’ 35. Quarterback Luke Foster then broke one for 20 yards to the 15 and four plays, plus one penalty later, Foster dove over into the end zone from the one-yard line. His point-after run was stopped, leaving the score knotted at 6-6 at the start of the second quarter.

Two possessions later, Larry grabbed another miscue after Halifax coughed up the ball for a third time, this time on the Vikes’ 36. Foster broke a run for 21 yards down to the 15. He then guided them down to the 2-yard line, but LAAS attempted two failed pass plays and a run by Larry where he was tackled for a loss. Another stop on a Foster run and the Green-and-Gold came away with nothing as Halifax took over on their six-yard line.

The Vikings drove to their own 35-yard line and on the very next play, Hammack broke up the middle, shook off a pair of LAAS defenders and sprinted to the end zone. This time the point after was wide of the goal-posts and Halifax was left with a slim 12-6 lead with under a minute-and-a-half until halftime.

Another onside kick set LAAS up at midfield. They moved to the 35 before a pair of penalties moved them back to the Halifax 45. Larry then broke a long 27-yard run and caught a 17 yard pass from Foster down to the one-yard line. With just 24 seconds left until the break, Larry plunged over for the 12-12 tie after the PAT run was stopped.

The fourth onside kick set LAAS up on the opening drive of the third quarter at the Halifax 39. Larry then wove his way through tacklers and on the first play rambled 39 yards to score. Another PAT failed, but LAAS had its first, and what would prove to be only, lead of the game, 18-12.

It took the Vikings just six plays to knot the game up again at 18-all on a nine-yard scamper by Hammack.

Starting at mid-field on the next drive, it looked like LAAS would go ahead again as they used a long drive to move to the 27, but a fourth-down pass play from Foster to Larry in the end zone was called back on a penalty, Failing to convert on the next play, the ball went over to Halifax on downs.

The Vikings then became ‘clock-eaters’; grinding it out for six minutes to the end of the third, only to be stopped by the LAAS defense on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Again, the visitors couldn’t capitalize and the ball went back to Halifax on downs at the Viking 43. Eating more clock – another six minutes worth – drove the home team 56 yards to the LAAS one-yard line. On the next play, the 10th of the drive, Hammack took it in for the score and this time a two-point run worked to move the score to 26-18 with 5:17 left.

Starting at their own 45, LAAS used four runs and an incompletion to burn the clock down to 1:46 left. But then, shockingly, the Green-and-Gold suffered their only lost fumble of the game at the Halifax 35. Halifax then ran five running plays, picking up three first downs before going into victory formation with 14 seconds remaining and claiming the top prize.

Larry was LAAS’ leading rusher with 131 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Foster had 87 yards on the ground and one score as they amassed 267 yards of offense. Kanon Spruill was leading tackler with 13 bring-downs.

“That’s tough,” said Ford. “Getting two touchdowns called back….but we still kept charging forward. I’m prouder of this team than you could ever imagine.”

LAAS claimed the second-place trophy as Foster, Larry, and Waylon Clifton earned All Conference and Spruill was named as conference Defensive Player of the Year.

With the Pope John Paul II Catholic’s Saints falling to Arendell Parrott in their conference finale, LAAS will travel to Kinston to face the Patriots on Friday when the NC Independent Schools state playoffs begin.