Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
PINETOPS — A quick-striking offense vaulted SouthWest Edgecombe into the second round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2-A football playoffs Thursday night.
The Cougars, showcasing 6-foot-4, 180-pound senior wide receiver Keishon Porter, scored a touchdown all seven possessions in ousting East Bladen, the No. 15 seed in the 2-A East Region, by a 48-13 margin.
SouthWest has now scored a TD its last 16 possessions after going 9 for 9 against Beddingfield in the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference championship game last week.
SouthWest, the No. 2 seed and the Eastern Plains champion, boosted its record to 11-1 with its eighth consecutive win and welcomes No. 7 Whiteville in the second round next Friday night. Whiteville shelled No. 10 Wallace-Rose Hill, 51-7, on Thursday night.
The Eagles, despite piling up 272 rushing yards, exited at 5-6. They stayed with their churning running attack when the deficit became insurmountable.
SouthWest was limited to seven possessions because East Bladen possessed the football for more than 30 of the 48 minutes of playing time and consumed five-plus minutes on five different drives.
“Our defensive philosophy here at SouthWest is to bend but don’t break,” commented head coach Jonathan Cobb. “We have done that a lot this year.
“I am alarmed. This was not one of our better nights and it’s not the kind of defense we want to play. We want to get people off the field. But the silver lining is that we bent but didn’t break.”
In 15-plus minutes on the field, SouthWest effectively utilized Porter at not only wide receiver but as the quarterback in the shotgun scheme. Porter caught four passes for 91 yards, with two of the receptions setting up TDs. He rushed for 62 yards and a TD on just four carries, and his 63-yard punt return set up the Cougars’ third TD.
Junior Demari Mabry emerged SouthWest’s top rusher with 88 yards and two TDs on six carries. Senior Hunter Hopkins was accurate on all six of his PAT kicks.
The Cougars notched TDs on senior Cortezz Jones’ 2-yard carry and Mabry’s 57-yard gallop in the first quarter; Mabry’s 10-yard scamper and Porter’s 5-yard prance in the second quarter; junior Tayshaun Pittman’s 18-yard trot in the third; and Jones’ 1-yard plunge and junior quarterback Ray Wooten’s 18-yard option keeper with 7:15 left.
Junior quarterback Jackson Lewis’ 37-yard pitch to Porter set up the first TD. Porter’s 63-yard punt return along the sideline led to the third TD; and Porter’s theatrics in directing the two-minute offense resulted in a TD in the closing seconds of the first half.
Porter had a 21-yard reception from Lewis when junior Larry Jones’ kickoff return left the Cougars at East Bladen’s 40-yard line to open the second half.
Wooten’s 15-yard toss to Porter to the 1-yard line led to the opening TD of the fourth quarter; and Cortezz Jones slammed 23 yards before Wooten tallied the final TD.
The Eagles, featuring the hard-nosed running of the trio of senior Lawson Hester, junior RaSean McKoy and senior Kasey Price, turned the football over on downs at SouthWest’s 40 and 21-yard lines. The TDs came on Hester’s 2-yard effort in the second quarter and junior Zylique Lewis’ plunge from less than a yard out on the final play of a drive that consumed the final 7 minutes, 15 seconds.
SouthWest got crucial stops from senior tackle Randall Jones, Mabry, junior end Matt Joyner and senior linebacker Kedar Darden in squelching Eagles threats.
“We had too many mistakes,” reviewed East Bladen head coach Robby Priest. “We can’t throw the ball deep and have got no one that can do it. We moved the ball decent, but what we do was not good enough. We imploded in the first quarter.
“We knew we had to play a perfect game and they had to mess up some. We didn’t and they didn’t. I like the way they play. They are physical and well-coached.”
As Cobb acknowledged: “We were firing on all cylinders.”