ELIZABETHTOWN –Senior Rasean McKoy scored the go-ahead touchdown with 24 seconds left then made a leaping game-saving interception with 5 seconds remaining to preserve a 47-43 Three Rivers Conference football victory over Whiteville Monday night.
Whiteville’s Tyler Hammond returned a pass interception 61 yards to give the Wolfpack their 1st lead of the night at 43-39 after Grayson Creech tacked on the extra point at the 4:27 mark.
Photos by Kenneth Armstrong
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Wolfpack at the end of the interception return was assessed on the kickoff, and after McKoy’s 11-yard kickoff return, the Eagles gained possession at the Whiteville 43 yardline. A facemask penalty on the next play moved the ball to the 25.
Twice on the winning scoring drive East Bladen faced 3rd-and-long situations and twice McKoy picked up the 1st down with runs of 10 and 12 yards. The 12-yard run came on a counter-play and carried to the Wolfpack 1 yardline. Two plays later McKoy scored standing up from a yard out. McKoy banged into the end zone for the 2-point conversion and a 47-43 lead.
Daejuan Thompson hauled in a 13-yard pass from Wendell Smith to give Whiteville a 1st down at the Eagle 39. On the next play McKoy out-jumped a couple of potential receivers to secure the interception at the East Bladen 7 yardline.
Larrell Murchison, an East Bladen graduate and defensive lineman for the Tennessee Titans, helped the Eagles against Whiteville
Photos by Kenneth Armstrong
McKoy racked up 177 yards and 3 touchdowns on 25 carries. The 6-3 senior now has amassed 994 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns in 6 games. Junior teammate Raymond Autry, Jr. ran for 117 yards and 3 touchdowns on 10 attempts. Senior Zach Meares completed 4 of 6 passes for 51 yards and a touchdown. Senior Javant McDowell had a 32-yard reception, and junior Javius Brooks rushed for 43 yards and caught a 16-yard touchdown pass.
The Eagles covered 59 yards in only 3 plays on their 1st possession of the game to grab an early 7-0 lead. McKoy raced around the right side for 44 yards, and one play later Meares rolled out and tossed a 16-yard touchdown pass to Javius Brooks. Meares kicked the extra point with 9:31 on the clock.
The Wolfpack drove 50 yards to the Eagle 1 yardline, but freshman Carson Gooden knocked the ball loose from Whiteville’s Shaheem Shipman at the goalline and junior Donnie Ezzell recovered for East Bladen in the end zone.
East Bladen responded with an 80-yard drive in 11 plays. The 32-yard pass from Meares to McDowell highlighted the drive. McKoy picked up 12 yards on a 3rd down play, before Autry barreled through the line on an 11-yard touchdown run and pushed the lead to 13-0 with 32 seconds left in the quarter.
A diving McDowell tripped up the Wolfpack runner on a 4th down play at the East 30 yardline and regained possession for the Eagles, but Whiteville stopped the Eagles on down at the Whiteville 45.
Whiteville covered 55 yards in 4 plays. Smith connected with Antonio McFadyen on a 33-yard pass play then tossed a 17-yard TD pass to McFadyen. Creech booted the conversion to slice the lead to 13-7 with 3:50 on the clock.
Autry started left on a counter-play, cut back to the right then sped down the right sideline on a 59-yard touchdown run to stretch the Eagle lead to 19-7 at the 3:30 mark.
Whiteville bounced back with a 61 yard drive in 10 plays. A 17-yard run by Brandon Tyson set up Shipman’s 1-yard TD carry. The extra point was deflected and the Eagles led 19-13 at halftime.
East Bladen opened the 2nd half with a 60-yard drive in 10 plays. McKoy ripped off a pair of 10-yard runs, and Javius Brooks dashed 14 yards. On 4th down from the 11 yardline, McKoy charged around right end and crossed the goalline standing up to push the Eagle lead to 25-13.
Back came the Wolfpack with a 53-yard drive in 6 plays led by Tyson who reeled off runs of 13 and 12 yards before scoring on a 1-yard run with 5:18 on the clock to slice the lead to 25-20 following Creech’s extra point kick.
McKoy ignited a 53-yard, 8-play scoring drive with a 16-yard run then added runs of 7 and 5 yards before bolting 12 yards to the end zone to grow the lead to 31-20 with 41 seconds left in the period.
Four plays later the Wolfpack were in the end zone again on a 6-yard run by Tyson. Nick Bellamy’s 23-yard run on a jet sweep started the 56-yard drive. Smith tossed a 2-point conversion pass to Chioke Funches to cut the margin to 31-28 seven seconds before the quarter break.
It took East Bladen 5 plays to cover 51 yards and score again. Autry blasted through the left side, popped loose from 3 different groups of tacklers and scooted 34 yards for the touchdown. Meares flipped a 2-point conversion pass to Javius Brooks to pad the lead to 39-28 with 9:51 on the clock.
Whiteville needed 8 plays to drive 50 yards. A 16-yard run by Shipman and an 11-yard burst by Tyson sparked the drive. K. J. Hall carried 6 yards for the touchdown, and Smith hooked up with Funches again on the conversion pass that narrowed the gap to 39-36 with 7:06 left.
Eagle Coach Robby Priest who has been in quite a few of these shootouts before said, “I just had that feeling in the first quarter and thought uh-oh here we go.” McKoy who ran for 177 yards and came up with the big defensive play at the end did everything but sell popcorn. Coach Priest shared that McKoy has had interest from N. C. State and UNC-Pembroke.
The Eagles outrushed the Wolfpack 360-276 and held a 411-340 edge in total yards.
Shipman ran for 96 yards and a touchdown for Whiteville. Tyson finished with 93 yards and 2 touchdowns rushing.
The Eagles improved to 4-2 and will travel to West Bladen Friday night for their season finale.