By: Anthony Perkins
Belmont – The South Point Red Raiders hosted the Eastern Guilford Wildcats in the first round of the NCHSAA 3A playoffs on Friday night and outlasted the Wildcats in a hard fought, back and forth game by a 41-31 final score.
The game featured two teams that on this night relied on two vastly different styles of play. The Wildcats relied on big plays while the Red Raiders relied on a ball-control, smash mouth style of offense slowly grinding down their opponents into submission by the end of the contest.
South Point took the first lead of the game after their defense forced an Eastern Guilford punt on the Wildcats first possession. The Red Raiders first possession took seven plays that covered 60 yards and ended with a 6-yard touchdown run by fullback Tyson Riley.
South Point had very little time to enjoy their lead because after the ensuing kickoff, Eastern Guilford answered on the second play from scrimmage when quarterback Tyreik Boyd hooked up with Kytair Lundy for a 73-yard pass and run for their first score and a 7-7 tie.
The Red Raiders were forced to punt on their next possession and an excellent punt by Dylan Nicks pinned the visitors at their own one-yard line. The Wildcats were up to the task and capped off a 99-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown run by Ryan Larkin that had spilled over into the second quarter.
The game took an ominous turn for the Red Raiders on their next drive when they fumbled the ball on the first play from scrimmage and the Wildcats recovered at the South Point 29. South Point’s defense dug in and allowed the Wildcats to advance the ball only two yards. Facing a fourth and six from the 27, Eastern Guilford decided on a field goal attempt and kicker Luke Stanley was true on the attempt and the Wildcats jumped out to a 17-7 lead with under seven minutes left in the first half.
The Red Raiders tightened the game up on their next possession that lasted nearly six minutes. Riley broke one up the gut on a fullback dive play that went for 31 yards and the point after closed the gap to 14-17 in favor of Eastern Guilford and completed the scoring for the first half.
The Red Raiders took the opening kickoff for the second half and another seven-play, sixty-one drive ended when Elijah Phiffer scored on a 14-yard quarterback keeper to give the Red Raiders a 21-17 lead just over three minutes into the third quarter.
However, South Point enjoyed their lead for only thirteen seconds. The Boyd to Lundy connection worked again to perfection for Eastern Guilford when Boyd’s first down pass to Lundy in the left flat went for 80 yards and another quick score to push the Wildcats back out to a 24-21 lead.
The Red Raiders answered again on their next possession that covered 85-yards and took over four minutes off the clock. Once again it was Riley who broke another run up the middle for a 31-yard touchdown jaunt. Kicker Charles Birtwistle added his fifth of six, point after attempts to give the Red Raiders a 28-24 lead before heading into the final quarter.
Eastern Guilford regained the lead (31-28) on the second play of the fourth quarter on a one-yard run by fullback Jaiden Evans but they enjoyed their final lead for less than two minutes. Once again South Point fullback Tyson Riley broke off another big run up the middle (47 yards) on their next possession to give South Point the lead for good at 34-31.
The South Point defense dug in and stopped the next Wildcat drive on downs at their own 41-yard line giving the Red Raiders a short field. Two plays later Tyson Riley drove a stake in the heart of the Wildcats with a 34-yard burst into the end-zone and a 41-31 lead with just over six minutes remaining in the contest.
Eastern Guilford had one more chance at a comeback and had moved the ball just over mid-field with over four minutes still on the clock. Another Boyd to Lundy pass netted an additional eight yards for the Wildcats but the Red Raiders forced a fumble on the tackle that Frank Vickers secured for South Point. The Red Raiders advanced the ball inside the Wildcats ten and then went into the victory formation to run out the clock and secure the 41-31 victory.
After the game, Eastern Guilford coach Tony Aguilar made the following comments. “Number 31 for South Point was the difference in the game, we just couldn’t stop him. However, I’m proud of my team, they played a good game against a good team and at the end they (South Point) made a few more plays than we did.”
South Point head coach Adam Hodge said, “Hats off to our opponents tonight. They were good and it took a total team effort to pull out the win. Our offense and defense made plays when they had to near the end and that was the difference. It feels good to be in the playoffs again and its good to post one in the win column.”
East Guilford’s offense finished up with 447 yards; 151 yards rushing and 296 yards passing. Quarterback Tyreik Boyd completed 19 of 25 passes and his favorite target was Kytair Lundy, 8 receptions for 178 yards. The Wildcats garnered 16 first downs, lost one fumble and were penalized eight times for 56 yards.
South Point’s offense finished up with 407 yards; 370 yards rushing and 37 yards passing. They moved the chains 21 times, lost one of two fumbles, and they were penalized five time for 50 yards. Tyson Riley was, without a doubt, the best player on the field on this night as he racked up 336 yards on 33 carries and he scored five touchdowns along the way to his banner night.
Next week the Red Raiders will be on the road for the second round of the playoffs at they travel to Canton, NC to take on the Pisgah Bears who defeated Southern Guilford by a score of 29-20.