Gators rally; grab overtime victory
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 6, 2005 2:34 AM
SEVEN SPRINGS -- Spring Creek's football team has collected first-ever victories against Hobbton and county rival Rosewood on its way to a record-setting season.
Add North Duplin to the list.
Josh Wright scampered four yards for the game-winning touchdown in overtime and the Gators escaped the Rebels 38-32 in the Class 1-A Carolina Conference regular-season finale for both teams Friday evening. Wright and receiver/halfback Lelo Burt rushed for 103 and 106 yards, respectively, as Spring Creek snapped a four-game losing skid against North Duplin.
The Gators (6-5, 3-2 Carolina), who played before 1,000-plus fans on Homecoming and Senior Night, clinched their first-ever winning season in the program's five-year history.
"It's the kind of game where you wish you weren't a coach, but a spectator so you could sit and watch," said Spring Creek coach Roy Whitfield.
Whitfield might have headed for the parking lot at halftime, however.
North Duplin converted two fumbles, including recovering an onsides kick, into 12 first-half points. The Rebels surged to 20-0 lead on Montreal Garner's touchdown runs of 7 and 6 yards, and Doug Lloyd's 15-yard scoring strike to Ryan Killette.
The Rebels (3-7, 2-3 Carolina) ran 16 offensive plays before facing a third-down situation. On the 17th play, Lloyd connected with Killette on third-and-9 for the touchdown. It was Killette's fifth of the season and Lloyd's area-leading 12th.
"We dug ourselves a hole and I knew they (North Duplin) were going to come out ready to play," said Whitfield. "They did a heckuva job ... played hard like they always do."
Spring Creek overcame a holding penalty on its next possession to close the gap to 20-8. Wright completed a 25-yard touchdown pass to Burt to go along with Ricky Mason's two-point conversion run.
Whitfield's team had a chance to pull within 20-14 at halftime, but Ronnie Butler fumbled on the goal line.
"This whole year, we've been a team that's struggled from the get-go," said sophomore linebacker Michael Russell. "The second half, we had leadership from everybody, and everybody just stepped it up. They played the best that they could."
Once again the Gators overcame a crucial penalty and scored. Wright's 7-yard run and his two-point pass to Burt closed the gap to 20-16.
North Duplin obliged its host with a turnover on its next possession. Lloyd rolled out from center, faced pressure and fumbled the pitch to Sherman Hyatt. Lloyd, on his back, watched as Russell picked up the loose ball and rambled 26 yards to the end zone.
"Everything went so slow on that play," said a grinning Russell. "Right about the time I went to him, I saw him flip it. I looked around and saw nobody was there, so I picked it up and was about to fall on it.
"I heard my boy Jaelyn (Lee) in the back saying 'no, no, don't fall. Run with it.' I couldn't have done it without those blocks right there."
The teams traded possessions before the Rebels recovered a fumbled punt and eventually scored on Lloyd's 14-yard pass to Brandon Smith. Wright orchestrated an 11-play drive that ended with his 26-yard pass to Burt with 2:26 left in regulation.
North Duplin came right back and tied the game on Lloyd's quarterback sneak. Ricky Mason, Billy Salazar and two other teammates stopped the two-point conversion less than a yard from the goal line.
"We haven't given up all year," said third-year Rebels coach John Avent. "Both teams played great and they (Spring Creek) did a good job to come back. Our guys played hard, but they just came out on top."
Spring Creek elected to go on defense to start overtime. Lloyd rolled out and looked for Demetrius Vann in the end zone. He lofted a pass against a heavy rush and the Gators' Ronnie Butler stepped in front of Vann for the interception.
Butler expected the pass.
"I told my corner (Alex Dunmire) that if they slant or do the cross pattern, let's switch up," said Butler. "I just wanted to make a big play ... step up for the team. (This win) means a lot and one of coach Whitfield's goals before the season was to get a home playoff game."
The Gators and Rebels learned their playoff fates late Saturday afternoon when the N.C. High School Athletic Association released the 32-team playoff bracket for the large division (AA) and small division (A) for each classification.
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