By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on September 4, 2005 2:16 AM
CALYPSO -- Don't ever leave a North Duplin-Topsail game early. If you do, you'll miss the annual, fantastic finish.
Once again, it came down to the last play of the game.
Rebel quarterback Doug Lloyd's 'Hail Mary' pass into the end zone was intercepted by Topsail -- squashing the Rebels' attempt for a dramatic come from behind win as the Pirates claimed a 23-17 win at H.E. Grubbs Field.
Coach Ian Roper's visiting Pirates (1-2) picked up their first win of the season. Coach John Avent's Rebels remain in search of their first win at 0-2.
"This game is evolving into quite a rivalry" said Roper. "Every year, it's a cliffhanger. Just once, I'd love to see a normal ending without the nail biting."
Topsail could not get their offense untracked in the opening quarter. In fact, the Pirates ran only 10 plays in the first 12 minutes to the Rebels' 17. Topsail's stingy defense kept the Rebels' offense at bay as well.
Penned deep into their territory, a fourth-down punt snap sailed over Lloyd's head and out of the end zone giving Topsail a two-point safety at 4:42.
In the second quarter, North Duplin again controlled the clock. It ran 21 plays compared to Topsail's six. It took the Rebels only two plays to take the lead. At 11:21, Lloyd hit end Ryan Killette right on the numbers with a 27- yard scoring toss. Juan Vaca's extra-point made it 7-2.
Seventeen seconds later, Topsail halfback Andrew Travis raced 68 yards to regain the lead.
North Duplin was not without several other scoring opportunities before halftime. Penalties brought back possible touchdowns on passes from Lloyd to Killette and Desi Smith.
Travis, only a sophomore and already being scouted by major colleges, did not give the Rebels a second chance. He took Brandon Smith's opening third quarter kick-off and ran it back all the way.
Barely two minutes later, he gave his club what proved to be their margin of victory off a 58-yard scamper.
Hampered by dropped passes and fumbles in the third quarter, Avent's club saved their best efforts for the final twelve minutes of play.
Starting at their own 29, Lloyd drove his club to the Pirate 27. Resorting to some razzle-dazzle, Lloyd handed off to Montreal Garner who caught Vann wide open in the end zone with 1:14 remaining to be played. Garner's two-point conversion run made it anyone's game.
After Travis made a fair catch of Vaca's kick-off, Roper opted to run three plays before allowing Travis to be caught for a safety. With 14 seconds left, Garner was tackled from behind on the ensuing kick, preventing the tying score and potentially the winning conversion.
With time for only one play from the Topsail 32, Lloyd's best effort came up just barely short.
"I certainly would have liked to have picked up that win," said Avent. "The outcome on a play here or a play there, was the difference. That's what you can expect in this type of rivalry."
Despite the outcome, Avent saw plenty of positives.
"First and foremost, I saw improvement over our first game," he said. "Lloyd continues to pick up more and more of our offensive system. Our defense, particularly our linebackers, were really hitting. And of course, Montreal Garner gives us great senior leadership."
North Duplin is open Friday. The Rebels next game will be September 16 at Holly Ridge Dixon.
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