By: Anthony Perkins
Waynesville – Electricity was in the air on Friday night when two tradition rich teams took to the field and squared off in second round action of the NCHSAA 3A playoffs. The number one seeded Pisgah Bears of Canton hosted the number 16 seeded Red Raiders of South Point in a heavyweight contest where each team traded knock out blows and sucker punches with South Point emerging from the fray with a 27-24 victory.
The Bears received the opening kickoff and started at their own 20 after South Point’s Charles Birtwistle booted the ball into the endzone. The Bears steadily moved the ball downfield and took over five minutes off the clock before their drive stalled at the South Point 24-yard line. Pisgah kicker Luke Pinkston came on the field and split the uprights for a 41-yard field goal to give the Bears an early 3-0 lead.
South Point return specialist Will Ross returned the ensuing kickoff to the South Point 34-yard line where the Red Raiders set up shop for their first drive. The South Point “red bone offense” answered the first Pisgah score with a 13-play drive that ate up the rest of the first quarter except for 40 seconds. Fullback Tyson Riley (29 carries, 110 yards) capped off the drive with the first of his two touchdowns on a one-yard run. The point after attempt failed and kept the score at 6-3 lead and probably left the visiting crowd and maybe the Red Raiders wondering if that failed attempt might come back to haunt them.
After the ensuing kickoff and two plays from scrimmage, the clock rolled over into the second quarter. The Bears finished off their second drive (12 plays, 80 yards) when junior quarterback Logan Free (11 carries, 67 yards) scored on a one-yard run. Pinkston was true on the point after and the Bears claimed a 10-6 lead with 6:42 left in the first half.
The Red Raiders next drive started at the Pisgah 48 after a pooch kick by Pisgah was returned to the Pisgah 48 by South Point’s Ashton Harris. The South Point offense chipped away at the Bears defense and used 13 plays and almost all of the remaining time in the second quarter to travel the 48 yards to paydirt. Riley finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown run and Birtwistle was good with the point after. With only 19 seconds left in the half the Bears took a knee after kickoff and both teams went into the intermission with South Point holding a tenuous 13-10 advantage.
The Red Raiders had the opening possession of the second half but their drive stalled and they turned the ball over on downs after a bad pitch on 4 and 4 at the Bears 37 that lost eight yards.
Pisgah took possession at their 44 and used only eight plays to capture the lead once again. This time fullback Ian Rogers (18 carries, 113 yards) did the honors for the Bears on a sweep left. He got to the edge and covered the remaining 20 yards to the endzone and after Pinkston’s kick the Bears had recaptured the lead at 17-13 with 8:19 left in the third quarter.
South Point started their next drive at their own 20 and after eight plays they had advanced the ball to the Pisgah 32 when the quarter ended.
When the fourth quarter started the Red Raiders took nine more plays and over four and half minutes off the clock before quarterback Elijah Phifer (13 carries, 47 yards) scored on a 4-yard run. The extra point was good and the Red Raiders held a 20-17 lead but the Bears had plenty of time left with over seven minutes still remaining in the game.
The Bears went to work at their 20 after the kickoff and a six play, three-minute drive was capped off with Rogers second touchdown run, this time for 11 yards. The extra point was good and Pisgah was back in the lead by a score of 24-20 with only 4:25 left in the contest.
Under normal circumstances that looked like it might have been the ball game since South Point is a methodical, time-consuming offense. However, on the ensuing kickoff Ashton Harris gathered in the ball at the South Point three and headed up the left side. At about the 20-yard line he cut towards the middle of the field and found daylight. After ten more yards he had only one man, the kicker, left to beat. He juked to the left and then outraced the Pisgah defenders that were in hot pursuit all the way to the end zone and a 27-24 South Point lead following the extra point.
With just over four minutes left on the clock one had to wonder if the score might have come too quickly.
Once more Pisgah set up shop at their own 20 for what would be the last possession for either team. The Red Raiders looked as though they would finally stop the Bears when they faced a third and seven from the Pisgah 37. In what seemed to be a certain passing down, quarterback Logan Free broke a quarterback keeper for 18 yards and another Pisgah first down at the South Point 40. Four plays later there was less than 25 seconds left on the clock and the Red Raiders tackled the Pisgah quarterback on a sweep play at the South Point 22 before he could get out of bounds.
After the game, head coach Brett Chappell said, “At that point we figured our best option was to let the clock run down, take our last time-out, go for a tying field goal and try our luck in overtime.”
On a field goal or extra point attempt a lot of things have to go right. The center must execute a good snap, the holder has to field the ball cleanly and get it placed for the kicker, and the kicker has to be accurate with the kick. On this attempt a few of those things went slightly wrong and the kick, that looked to be on target, fell just short of the goal post as the clock ticked down to all zeroes.
Pisgah’s season came to a heart-breaking sudden end and an elated South Point advanced to the third round of the playoffs.
South Point coach Adam Hodges said after the game, “This (Pisgah) is a tough team and at the end of a game that could have went either way ,we just had a few more points on the scoreboard. I am so proud of my boys. They played well tonight and now we get to play one more game.”
Both teams played nearly perfect games, just what you would expect for a playoff game. Neither team punted nor turned the ball over. Neither team was penalized until the second half, South Point-two time for 20 yards and Pisgah-three times for 15 yards.
The Red Raiders finished up with a total of 191 yards, all of it on 51 rushing attempts and they accumulated 14 first downs.
The Bears had the highest total with 299 yards; 208 yards rushing on 33 carries and quarterback Logan Free completed 4 of 6 passes with no interceptions for 91 additional yards. The Bears moved the chains 13 times.
Next week the Red Raiders will be at home to face conference foe, Forestview, that defeated Parkwood by a score of 20-17.