Panthers heartbroken at North Edgecombe

Published 12:14 am Saturday, November 26, 2016


Rocky Mount Telegram


LEGGETT — Northside was determined to stop the run. After all, North Edgecombe has three 1,000-yard rushers on its roster.

So the Panthers put nine defenders near the line of scrimmage. The Warriors countered with guys like Qua’Tavis Harrell and Kavon Pittman, two 300-pound offensive lineman who knew it was their time to shine.

“We all know that our running backs are a big part of our team,” Harrell said. “Their defense threw everything at us, and we were ready. We want to be the line that can win games.”

The offensive line opened up running lanes, and blocked long enough for Warriors quarterback Mark Williams to throw two touchdowns as North Edgecombe held off the Panthers, 16-14, in the second round of the playoffs on Friday.

It was fitting that the Warriors found success through the air after being such a run-dominant team throughout the season.

And the passes came at crucial times. Williams was just 4-of-7, but made those completions count. North Edgecombe answered a Panthers score late in the second quarter when Williams found Dejuan Day for a 14-yard touchdown that tied the score at 8-8.

North Edgecombe had been working on a passing play in practice, but hadn’t used it in a game yet this season. And on the first drive out of halftime, the play made its way into the huddle on fourth-and-8. It was a play-action pass designed to find running back Mike Sherrod down the sideline, and that’s just how it worked. Williams rolled out to his right and found Sherrod in stride for a 35-yard gain and a first down. Just three plays later, the two would connect again for the go-ahead and eventual game-winning score.

“We’ve been trying different stuff but never in a game,” Sherrod said. “We had this new play, and I knew it was coming to me. It was blocked well, he had time to throw, and I was able to catch it.”

Added Parisher: “They hadn’t seen us throw the ball a whole lot on tape. It was a play-action call, and they bit on it because they’d been stacking the box all game, and it worked out.”

Northside would answer the score on its next drive as James Barrow barreled in from 17 yards out, but the Warriors stuffed the two-point try to preserve their lead at 16-14. The defensive stand was a theme that would continue the rest of the game. The Warriors put the defense in tough situations several times because of fumbles, but the Panthers couldn’t get any points out of the turnovers. A fumble off a kickoff gave the Panthers the ball on the Warriors’ 21, but North Edgecombe forced a turnover on downs. Another lost fumble ended with a missed 37-yard field goal by James Barrow midway through the fourth quarter that would have given the Panthers a lead.

The final lost fumble came with 3:04 to play as North Edgecombe was trying to run out the clock, but the Panthers had no timeouts left and had issues getting plays off.

“This was the toughest game of the year,” said Barrow, who had a game-high 104 rushing yards. “I missed that field goal by about a foot. You keep thinking about what-ifs, but I know that this is how the game goes. Both team played hard and someone’s got to lose.”

Sherrod led the Warriors with 102 yards, and was able to take time off the clock with methodical runs.

“Our O-line opened up everything,” Sherrod said. “It’s fun to run behind those guys because they’re so big.”

“If they get off the ball first,” Parisher said, “we can get at least three yards every time.”