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PINETOPS — The SouthWest Edgecombe High varsity football team, on a cold Friday night, modestly celebrated at least a share of a conference championship for the fifth consecutive year on its Senior Night.
Beddingfield, badly beaten on the frigid turf, turned its attention to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2-A playoffs.
With senior back Cortezz Jones exploding for five touchdowns and piling up 167 yards on 18 rushes, SouthWest captured the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference championship by a 60-22 margin against the Bruins, who settled for second place after entering the regular-season finale for both teams deadlocked for the league lead at 4-0.
The Cougars registered touchdowns on all nine possessions. SouthWest converted three Beddingfield fumbles into scores and connected on a pair of TD passes with juniors Jackson Lewis and Ray Wooten quarterbacking the offense in the first half and final two quarters, respectively.
The seventh consecutive win boosted SouthWest. the preseason EPC favorite, to a 10-1 record, while the Bruins, after four consecutive wins, closed at 8-3.
Head coaches Jonathan Cobb of SouthWest and Carl Smith of the Bruins emphasized they didn’t see the rout coming. However, Jones expressed otherwise.
“We came out to do our duties,” Jones declared. “We knew we had a special team from the beginning. We stuck together and worked hard in practice — every hour, every minute, every second. We won with effort. We had to drive for five (consecutive EPC championships) and keep going for more.”
The Cougars bolted to a 19-0 lead. However, Beddingfield, behind bulldozer sophomore fullback Raekwon Batts and elusive senior Jalil Hutcherson, answered with TDs on back-to-back possession and trailed 25-14 late in the second quarter.
But SouthWest erupted for three TDs the last three minutes of the first half and its TD with less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter produced a 60-14 margin and a continuous clock.
“For me, I can handle it,” Beddingfield’s Smith responded to the debacle. “But I have seen stuff out of my team lately that I knew something like this could happen.
“But SouthWest practiced like champions and played like champions. They earned it. Mental mistakes and lack of execution hurt us, but hats off to a great program that was built right. Congratulations to them.”
Added workhorse Batts, who thundered for 184 yards on 22 rushes: “Not much to say. We didn’t come ready to play. We just have to get ready for the playoffs.”
Jones scored on jaunts of 1, 72, 16 and 1 yards and caught a 35-yard TD pass from Lewis.
Junior Demari Mabry zipped 48 yards for SouthWest’s first TD with less than a minute elapsed and scampered 42 yards for a second-quarter TD. Heralded senior wide receiver Keishon Porter came up with a circus catch of a 27-yard toss from Wooten for a TD and junior Tayshaun Pittman slammed 4 yards for the final TD.
Porter snared a two-point conversion pass and senior Hunter Hopkins kicked four extra points.
Funmble recoveries by seniors Darren Windross, D.J. Taylor and Michael Hussey led to TDs.
“I thought it was going to be a slugfest,” Cobb expressed. “But our kids, boy, they’re special. They came out and played really well.
“Beddingfield had crucial turnovers and we got the momentum — and kept it. I am so proud of our guys for getting the momentum, keeping it and taking care of business.”
The Bruins, in the second quarter, struck on Batts’ 55-yard gallop and Hutcherson’s 39-yard burst. With the clock not stopping, Beddingfield kept the football the entire fourth quarter and, on the final play from scrimmage, Batts pounded 15 yards for the final TD.
Hutcherson wound up with 88 yards on nine rushes.