Pack holds on in 4th quarter to beat Conley

Published 11:51 pm Friday, September 4, 2015


For The Daily Reflector


GREENVILLE — Washington just seems to have D.H. Conley’s number.

The Pam Pack entered Friday night’s contest having won the last three in the series — all by single digits — and the end result was all too familiar for the Vikings.

Jarquez Keyes’ 1-yard touchdown run and the ensuing extra point with 25 seconds remaining lifted Washington to a heart-pounding, 35-34 victory at Conley, erasing a dominant run of 27 unanswered second-half points by the Vikings.

Washington, which only attempted four passes all night, faced a fourth-and-11 from the Conley 12-yard line with just over 30 seconds to go, but Brandon Jackson’s sparkling catch resulted in a first down, and Keyes finished the job on the next play.

Conley quarterback Holton Ahlers was intercepted on a desperation pass the ensuing series, ending the game and giving Washington (1-2) its first win of the season after two tough losses to Havelock and Tarboro.

“It’s a big rivalry game,” Conley interim coach Nate Conner said. “They bring their best to us. Their backs were against the wall this week, and they played tough. Credit goes to their team.”

After a rough first half that included a dropped touchdown on fourth-and-goal and a number of other frustrating miscues that led to a 21-0 halftime deficit, Conley’s high-powered attack came to life in the third quarter.

Immanuel McLawhorn’s 66-yard scoring sprint to begin the second half sparked a run of three touchdowns in five offensive plays for the Vikings (2-1).

Two Ahlers’ touchdowns — a 64-yard touchdown run and a 59-yard scoring connection to Noah Harper — brought Conley within one possession, 28-21, with 11 seconds remaining in the third period.

Ahlers found the end zone again from 17 yards out to begin the fourth quarter, but the extra point attempt failed, leaving Washington ahead 28-27.

Following a Pam Pack lost fumble, the Vikings took a 34-28 lead on McLawhorn’s 17-yard touchdown run with 5:37 remaining.

But Washington didn’t waver. Just as it had done all game, the Pam Pack went to the ground, and marched 80 yards in 15 plays to take the lead.

The only pass of the drive was a crucial one, as Jackson skied to make a game-saving catch from quarterback Jarod Ruffing. The referees needed a measurement to determine if the play resulted in a first down, but the ball was spotted just ahead of the chains.

“It’s a game of inches, you hear it all the time,” Conner said. “If it goes the other way, we’re jumping up, screaming and hollering.”

Washington head coach Sport Sawyer was thankful to see the measurement go in his team’s favor.

“It was a heck of a play and a heck of a catch and throw,” Sawyer said. “It was so close to being a first down or not a first down, so we were very fortunate to get the spot there.”

Clinton Pope, who amassed 296 yards rushing, played a major role in Washington’s 21-0 lead and eventual win, while Keyes added 109 yards of his own.

Ahlers scored three total touchdowns and ran for 144 yards.