11/14/09 — Princeton rallies, wins first playoff game in nearly four decades

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Princeton rallies, wins first playoff game in nearly four decades

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on November 14, 2009 11:05 PM

PRINCETON -- How sweet it is.

Princeton scored the go-ahead touchdown with four minutes to play and defeated Hayesville 28-25 in the opening round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A western football playoffs Friday evening.

The Dawgs claimed the program's first postseason victory in 38 years.

"I don't know what to say, it's been a while since we have won one of these," said Princeton head coach Russell Williamson. "My guys gave it all they had, and I think we all knew that this would be a tough game."

Fourth-seeded Princeton (9-3 overall) dodged several fourth-quarter scoring strikes by the 13th-seeded Yellow Jackets. Hayesville (3-8) capped a 76-yard scoring drive with Jocquise Lloyd's 27-yard scamper, and closed the gap to 20-19.

The Dawgs received the ensuing kickoff with 5 1/2 minutes left in regulation. The possession lasted just two plays when Hayesville linebacker Cody Gibson stripped the ball from Javontae Turner and raced 29 yards into the end zone. The Jackets led 25-20 and decided to go for two, but misfired on the conversion pass.

"That play was big because it was the second time we stopped them going for two," said Williamson. "It gave our offense a chance to win the game for us."

And the Dawgs did just that.

Princeton regrouped and refocused at its own 39-yard line. After two successful passes, the Dawgs moved to the Jackets' 35-yard line. Senior quarterback David Gurganus found Patrick Jacobs for a 33-yard strike to set up a first-and-goal at the 2.

Gurganus called his own number and scored the go-ahead touchdown.

"Our offense has been able to score like that all year," said Williamson. "We could have hung our heads and called it a night, but these kids fought back and I am so proud of them."

Hayesville ran 75 offensive plays to just 31 for the Dawgs. Running back Bradley Nuckolls rushed for 170 yards and two touchdowns on 40 totes. The Jackets held advantages in time of possession, rushing yards, total offensive yards and won the turnover battle.

But Princeton emerged victorious.

Gurganus, the area's top passer, finished with a season-low 158 yards passing and rushed for 34 yards. Jacobs hauled in nine receptions for 119 yards. Matt Williamson and Dillon Daughtry combined for 39 yards on five catches.