11/05/06 — North Lenoir slides into playoffs

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North Lenoir slides into playoffs

Published in Sports on November 5, 2006 2:01 AM


Courtesy Kinston Free Press

LaGRANGE -- Two out of three may not have been bad for Meat Loaf, but for the North Lenoir Hawks it meant the end of their season.

Or did it?

Needing victories in its final three games to keep its playoff hopes alive, North Lenoir came up one win short, falling to rival Greene Central 61-30 Friday in its season finale at Bullock Field.

The Hawks (3-8 overall) failed to earn the required four wins to qualify for the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 2-AA playoffs, but still received an at-large bid Saturday evening.

North Lenoir snuck in as the No. 16 seed and will travel to top-seeded Southern Vance.

"We lost a couple of games that we should have won early in the season (East Duplin and Kinston) or we would have already been playoff eligible," said North Lenoir coach Wayne Jackson, whose team finished 2-3 in the Eastern Plains Conference. "We dug ourselves a hole that we weren't quite able to climb out of."

Greene Central, meanwhile, wiped away the bitter taste of last week's disappointing home loss to Farmville Central with a dominating road performance against the Hawks.

The Rams (9-2, 4-1 EPC) rolled up 474 yards of total offense and held North Lenoir to just 165 in a contest that could have been even more one-sided were it not for a couple of kick off returns for touchdowns by the Hawks' Zack Carter.

"We needed a big bounce-back game after last week," Greene Central coach Jim Bob Bryant said. "We came out focused on what we needed to do and then went out and did it."

What the Rams did was secure a probable first-round home game in the playoffs.

"I feel like we've earned the right to play at home," Bryant said. "A lot depends on whether we're placed in the 2-A or 2-AA bracket, but I believe we deserve to be a top two or three seed."

The Rams sure played like one against North Lenoir. They rushed for 232 yards and passed for another 170.

Senior quarterback Cameron Shelton, shaking off the effects of bronchitis and a sore back, completed 13 of 18 passes for two touchdowns and also rushed eight times for 55 yards and another score.

"Our quarterback was outstanding," Bryant said. "He struggled last week, but he had a good week of practice and really made a point to come back tonight with a solid effort."

Tyrell Lane had 87 rushing yards on eight carries for the Rams, while J. J. Thompson pounded inside for 95 yards and three touchdowns on 15 attempts.

Lane's only score came on defense, a 30-yard fumble return that put the Rams ahead 14-0 in the first quarter. Thompson also tallied on a 28-yard pass from Shelton.

Carter was the only bright spot for the Hawks, returning kickoffs 73 and 71 yards for touchdowns in the first half.

Parris Lee also hauled in a 26-yard TD pass from Andrew Manning and Joe Newborn blasted into the end zone from six yards out to complete the Hawks' scoring.

"Greene Central's an exceptional football team," said coach Jackson. "We knew it would be tough out there tonight. We just couldn't seem to stop them when we needed to."

Carter and Manning were two of 10 seniors who played their final game for North Lenoir.

"I told the seniors that while they may not have won as many games as they would have liked, they still made the playoffs three times and were one of the most successful senior classes in school history," Jackson said.