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West completes amazing turnaround

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

LELAND—About the only thing the West Brunswick football team did wrong Friday night in its 40-16 victory over North Brunswick was at the end—a too hasty attempt to douse coach Jimmy Fletcher with a celebratory ice bath. (Instead, the players splashed assistant Mike Alderson.)

But the missed attempt was understandable. Last season, the Trojans had nothing to celebrate in a winless schedule. This year, the victory over the Scorpions gave the Trojans a regular-season record of 6-5.

The NCHSAA Class 3-AA playoffs are next, and West, seeded No. 5, plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday at home against No. 12 seed Spring Lake Overhills (4-7). Admission is $6. (Booster club passes will not be accepted.)

The loss cost North a home site for the playoffs. The Scorpions (6-5) open the Class 2-A playoffs Friday as the No. 10 seed at Southwest Onslow (9-2), the No. 7 seed.

The 40 points were the most West has scored this season, and for Fletcher that was another highlight in an amazing season.

“When you come off something like last year and you have a winning season, it’s a great feeling for your players and your coaches,” Fletcher said. “It just makes you feel excited.”

Against North, Fletcher said the Trojans’ game plan was simplified.

“Offensively tonight,” Fletcher said, “we went really back to the basics. We did some good things. We kind of took some other stuff out and went right back and did some things we had done earlier in the year, and it worked out well tonight.”

And defensively, West had two key plays in the first half.

The third play of the game, on North’s first possession, foreshadowed a high-scoring first half. The Trojans’ Maverick Pate recovered a fumble and returned it 75 yards for a 6-0 lead with 10 minutes, 47 seconds left in the first quarter.

“One of our linebackers hit him,” Pate said. “I saw the ball and picked it up and ran.”

The play was pivotal for the Trojans.

“The first time they were driving I was thinking, ‘Dang, it’s going be a long game,’ Pate said. “And that (fumble) happened and it changed the momentum of the game.”

North, however, took the lead on its ensuing possession. A 62-yard pass from A.J. Perkins to Shawn Sanders gave the Scorpions a first down at the West 12. Four plays later, D.J. Graham scored, and Eric Spafford’s extra-point kick put North ahead 7-6 with 7:46 left in the quarter.

North used a 20-yard pass from Perkins to Sanders to set up a score on its next possession. The pass gave North a first down at the West 22. Six plays later, Spafford’s 22-yard field goal extended the Scorpions’ lead to 10-7 with 9.2 seconds left in the quarter. But that was enough time for Bradley Bell to return the kickoff 80 yards and give West a 12-10 lead at the end of the quarter.

“I listened to my coach,” Bell said. “When he said, ‘Run hard when you see a hole, go for it,’ that’s what I did. Van Cobb had a key block. That’s what made the hole open.”

West’s defense stopped North on downs at the West 28 on its first possession in the second quarter. One their ensuing possession, the Trojans appeared to headed for a punt after back-to-back delay-of-game penalties left them at their 40. But quarterback Ryan Hill completed a 60-yard touchdown pass to Tyquan Ash.

The game was Hill’s best passing game of the season.

“Our receivers did a great job,” he said. “I was able to move around some key blocks. They held them (off). I was able to get the ball to them.”

“The last two weeks he has thrown the ball really well,” Fletcher said. “And we caught the ball tonight. He made some nice throws.”

Bell’s kick gave West 19-10 lead with 3:45 left in the half.

After forcing a North punt, West took over at the North 36 with 2:23 left. After a penalty, a 22-yard run by Hill gave West a first down at the North 20. Three plays later, from the 21, Pate scored.

“The offensive line had good blocks,” Pate said. “I saw the hole and I just hit it.”

Bell’s kick put West ahead 26-10 with 39.6 seconds left.

That still left time for more excitement in the half. Gaines returned the kickoff to the West 21 before being tackled by a hustling Josh Johnson. And on North’s first-down play, Bell intercepted a pass and the half ended with West ahead 26-10.

“They had a good kickoff return,” Bell said. “I knew I had to step up right there. I saw the ball, caught it and tried to (run), but I got hit by a lineman.”

With the 16-point lead, Pate at halftime reminded his team to continue to play hard in the third quarter.

“We need to step it up,” he said he told them. “We’re not a third-quarter team. If we come out there hot, we’re going to stop them. We got to keep our heads up, when we’re down (in the score) or when we’re up (in the score). ”

West stopped North on its first possession of the third quarter. The Trojans then began a drive at their 42 that used the remaining 6:51 of third quarter and ended on Hill’s fourth-and-1 touchdown sneak at the start of the fourth quarter. Bell’s kick gave West a 33-10 lead.

North showed again its ability to score quickly. After a kickoff return to near midfield, the Scorpions needed four plays to score. A 50-yard run by Jesse Riley set up Gaines’ 5-yard score, cutting West’s lead to 33-16 with 10:11 left.

West matched that quick score with a 45-yard run by Hill. Bell’s kick with 5:30 left was the final point in the victory.

“This is the time you want to be playing well,” Fletcher said. “I just don’t want them to be satisfied. I’m excited about (this) week, and I think they are.”

NOTES

For West, Hill gained 120 yards on 17 carries and scored twice. He completed four of seven passes for 82 yards and one touchdown. For North, Gaines had 89 yards on 19 carries and scored once. Perkins completed six of 11 passes for 136 yards.

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The West Brunswick junior varsity ended its season with a 26-0 loss to North Brunswick.

For the Scorpions, a 27-yard pass from Chris Hamilton to Tyler Burton was the first touchdown, and Jirese Thomas scored on the two-point conversion, giving North an 8-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

A 40-yard run by Thomas put the Scorpions ahead 14-0 with 5:38 left in the half.

A 32-yard pass from Thomas to Demeir Robinson gave North a 20-0 lead with 38.6 seconds left in the half.

Burton recovered a fumble at the West 30 on West’s first drive in the third quarter, and that led to a 4-yard touchdown run by Thomas with 5:25 left in the quarter, the final points of the game.

North preserved the shutout when Robinson, among a crowd of players, intercepted a pass inside the North 5.

MICHAEL PAUL is the sports editor at the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or at sports@brunswickbeacon.com.