11/30/08 — One big play turns the tide in Goldsboro's loss to Tarboro

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One big play turns the tide in Goldsboro's loss to Tarboro

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 30, 2008 2:00 AM

TARBORO -- Goldsboro escaped trouble on one muffed punt.

The second time?

No such luck.

Tarboro turned a third-quarter blocked punt into a touchdown and rode the momentum to a 28-12 victory over Goldsboro at Viking Stadium on Friday evening. The top-seeded Vikings (13-1 overall) drew a date with second-seeded Jacksonville Northside for the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 2-A eastern regional championship next week.

As precious seconds ticked away in the Cougars' season, second-year head coach Eric Reid stole numerous glances at the scoreboard.

Would that errant punt be the turning point?

Indeed ... it would.

"That hurt us," said Reid.

Enrique Moses received a low snap and his punt deflected off the back of a teammate in the second quarter. Moses picked the ball up and rushed for a first down inside Tarboro territory.

The fifth-seeded Cougars (10-3-1) eventually turned the ball over on downs, but it was enough to keep the Vikings' vaunted running attack off the field for another couple of minutes.

"I thought they wanted it more than we did in the first half," said fifth-year Tarboro head coach Jeff Craddock. "They kind of smacked us right in the mouth early and they played a great first half."

Goldsboro seized the third lead change of the opening half on Andre Montgomery's 6-yard touchdown scamper with 65 seconds left before intermission. Montgomery, who rushed for 72 yards, broke the scoreless tie with a 5-yard TD run late in the first quarter.

Jamal Farmer's 20-yard run put Tarboro ahead 7-6 early in the second period.

"We just told the guys at halftime to relax," said Craddock. "They were a little embarrassed by their first-half performance. (Goldsboro) went right at us and it was nothing we hadn't seen before, but they were more physical than we were.

"We just had to step up the intensity and respond to the adversity. I thought our defense did a great job in the second half."

Tarboro definitely tightened its defense.

The Vikings forced two three-and-out series, did not allow a fourth-down conversion on three tries and yielded just 55 yards of total offense. The Cougars ran eight plays which resulted in negative yardage.

But the most costly play was the muffed punt.

Moses fielded yet another low snap and his teammate stepped right in front of him. The ball deflected off the player's back, senior defensive lineman Quintin Whitehead picked up the loose ball and rumbled 30 yards to the end zone.

"This time the ball went in our favor," said Craddock. "That was a huge play and put all the momentum on our guys. I don't know if they ever really recovered from that. It kind of deflated them."

Tarboro added two more touchdowns -- Damarius Harper's 3-yard plunge and Brandon Dozier's 20-yard romp. The Vikings extended their win streak to eight games and advanced to a regional final for the first time since 1998, when Craddock was an assistant to good friend Mike Schott.

Goldsboro was denied its first regional title-game appearance since 2002. The loss snapped the Cougars' six-game win streak, which ironically started after a lopsided defeat to the Vikings in the Eastern Plains Conference opener on Oct. 10.

"I'm proud of my boys for what they have accomplished this year," said Reid, who received a kiss on the cheek from his mom. "We've got more work to do. We'll come back in the spring and go hard (for next year)."