Plymouth ends Princeton's Cinderella season
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 25, 2012 1:52 AM
PLYMOUTH -- The clock struck midnight.
The glass slipper shattered.
Princeton's fairy-tale run in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A (small-school) football playoffs ended Friday evening. Plymouth converted three turnovers into touchdowns and emerged victorious 42-20 in the eastern regional championship game.
The Vikings (14-1 overall) face Murphy in the state finals next Saturday in Raleigh. Kick-off is 11 a.m. at Carter-Finley Stadium.
The final at-large entry into the eastern half of the 16-team draw, Princeton concluded the year 5-9 overall. The Bulldogs were denied their first regional title since 1979.
"You take away the turnovers and we're in that ballgame," first-year Princeton head coach Derrick Minor said. "I honestly feel like we could have beaten that team if we had shown up and played all three phases like we have been doing in the playoffs.
"When you go up against a team that's going to make you pay for your mistakes, you have to play mistake-free football."
The teams combined to score five touchdowns off five turnovers.
Plymouth finished with a 229-223 edge in total offense and had one touchdown called back on a holding penalty. The 1-2 tandem of Quadree Pettiford and Carl McCray amassed 172 yards on 37 rushes.
Johnny Frasier, the workhorse who had pulled the Bulldogs' carriage in the postseason, emerged the game's top rusher with 162 yards and two touchdowns on 23 totes. Frasier, quarterback Michael Wooten and receiver Patrick Norris executed a perfect hook-and-lateral that led to Frasier's 70-yard touchdown gallop as the first half expired.
Princeton trailed 24-14 at the break.
"It's a 10-point ballgame going into halftime despite the mistakes we had made in the first half," Minor said. "Our defense really played well I thought. We just didn't capitalize on our offense. That hook-and-lateral really excited the guys and gave us some momentum."
The Dogs' defense recorded a crucial fourth-down stop on the Vikings' opening possession of the second half. Princeton moved inside Plymouth territory on Frasier's 14-yard run, but the drive stalled on two direct-snap plays that resulted in illegal shift infractions.
The first flag negated Dillon Pace's 27-run that put the Dogs inside the Vikings' red zone. Princeton eventually punted.
"We still can't see it on film," Minor said. "A direct snap to the upback and our other guys are faking spin motions, which I guess threw the refs off. That just took the wind out of our sails."
So did a timeout.
Plymouth took over and marched to the Princeton 32 as time ticked away toward the end of the third quarter. The Dogs came up with another pivotal fourth-down stop, but Minor called timeout.
When play resumed, Vikings' quarterback Shamontez Ferebee completed a 32-yard scoring pass to Khalil Sheppard, who limped into the end zone. Plymouth led 30-14.
"That's one you want back," Minor said.
McCray added two fourth-quarter touchdown runs.
Jake Sullivan capped the Dogs' final drive of the season -- a 14-play, 65-yard march -- with a 1-yard plunge.
Plymouth bolted to a 24-0 lead after it recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff and scored four plays later. McCray's 1-yard dive ended a three-play possession midway through the first period.
"When you start the game off on a fumble on the kickoff return, it set the tone for the rest of the game," Minor said. "Special teams has been a good part of game plan and when like that happens, it takes a third of our game plan away. We're playing catch up now and you put your defense in a bad situation."
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