Pam Pack sputters in red zone in 21-12 loss to Kinston

Published 12:54 am Saturday, October 28, 2017

Washington had all the ingredients for a much-needed win on senior night. Drew Ferguson had a fumble recovery and an interception. Tyshawn Roberson took a kickoff 70 yards for a special-teams touchdown.

The defense, which has struggled throughout the season, even pitched a three-quarter shutout — the first time it had accomplished such a feat this season.

But sputtering out inside Kinston’s 10-yard line twice in the first half came back to bite Washington in a 21-12 loss.

“I absolutely hate it. This is my first senior class,” said first-year Washington coach Jon Blank. “These guys have stuck with us. There are a bunch of guys in that locker room hurting right now. They put it all out there.

“That’s on their defense. I give them credit. We ran some things that had been very successful for us in short-yardage situations. I think we were short of the chains by inches several times tonight.”

WATCH: Washington coach Jon Blank goes over the senior-night loss

The Vikings took advantage of a worn down Pam Pack defensive front in the second half. Blank called up junior-varsity linemen Sherfield Smith and Khyric McCloud for the game. As they struggled in the latter 24 minutes, so did the Pam Pack defense. Viking stud Tahj Ramsey capitalized with a pair of 2-yard touchdown runs.

“Definitely, early in the game, they were difference makers when they were fresh,” Blank said. “Those are guys that, on a big stage early, were into this thing. But, you saw some of the lack of varsity experience late in the game and we had to rotate them a lot.”

Washington was the first to strike. Smith broke in to drill Kinston quarterback Kieren Hooker, whose throw soared into the hands of Pam Pack cornerback Ja’quez Ruffin. Hykeem Ruffin carried his side into the red zone, then later pushed the pile forward for a first down inside the Viking 5.

That set up Pam Pack quarterback Frederick Holscher to sneak in a short score for a 6-0 lead with 4:50 left in the third quarter.

Kinston marched right back the other way. It moved the chains on third-and-5 after a questionable catch on a ball that appeared to have hit the turf. The Vikings then moved up to the Washington 20 after the home side was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after the apparent reception.

Ramsey ran down to the Pam Pack 5. That positioned Hooker to answer Holscher’s touchdown with one of his own, putting Kinston ahead, 7-6, on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Washington went three-and-out on the following series. The Vikings took the punt 65 yards to the house, but were yanked back to midfield due to two flags during the return. Regardless, Ramsey capped off the 49-yard drive with a 2-yard scamper that extended Kinston’s lead to 14-6.

Roberson didn’t let the game get out of hand, though. He initially dropped the ensuing kickoff, but picked right back up and dashed 70 yards along the left side to cut the deficit back down to 14-12 with 7:06 left.

Washington’s defense, pristine in the first half, couldn’t come up with a necessary stop. Jacel Jacobs and Ramsey led the Vikings back down the field. Ramsey, again, scooted in from 2 yards out to push their lead to 21-12.

The two exchanged punts to open the game. Washington got its first scoring opportunity after Ferguson recovered a fumble on an attempt at a screen pass. The Pam Pack drew Kinston offside on third-and-4 for a new set of downs at the Viking 11.

Washington couldn’t reach the end zone, but its defense gave it yet another shot. It forced a three-and-out, and Kinston had to boot it away from its own end zone.

Ruffin carried Washington within 15 yards of the end zone. Ka’ci Foreman, returning from injury, put Washington inside the 10, but Kinston made the stop on fourth-and-goal to again keep the Pam Pack out of the end zone.

The loss deals a blow to Washington’s odds of making the playoffs. The Pam Pack wraps up the regular season with a must-win game at West Craven next week. The Eagles bested Ayden-Grifton, 14-0, to improve to 5-0 and clinch first place in the 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference.