A-G loses close game at East Duplin
Ayden-Grifton quarterback Blake McLawhorn takes a snap during Friday's game. Photo by Linda Whittington / Neuse News
BEULAVILLE—Rarely has Ayden-Grifton football coach Paul Cornwell been so pleased with a loss.
A week after a lackluster home defeat to Pamlico County, the Chargers took defending 2AA state runner-up East Duplin to the wire on the road before falling just short, 28-20, Friday at Charles Richard Powers Stadium.
“We had a chance to beat one of the best 2A teams in the state, on their home field, which is one of the toughest environments anywhere to play in,” Cornwell said. “I asked our kids to compete for 48 minutes, which they didn’t do last week. Tonight, they did. I have nothing to be upset about. We left everything on the field.”
After recovering an onside kick at the ED 30 with 3:40 left in the game, the Chargers (1-2) drove to the 5-yard line in the final minute before the Panther defense rose to the occasion and forced three straight incompletions to turn the ball over on downs.
“Our defense came up big at the end, but we were very fortunate to win this football game,” said ED coach Battle Holley, a former coach at Kinston High School. “Ayden-Grifton is talented, well-coached, and has an excellent tradition. We knew coming in we’d been in for a fight.”
The Panthers used the big play to build a 28-14 lead after three quarters.
Devon Hunter hauled in a 53-yard TD pass from Ty Jenkins, Laquan Brown raced 69 yards for a score, and Keyon McClarin set up another Brown touchdown with a 69-yard scamper from the ED 16 to the Charger 15.
Until the final 12 minutes, A-G was only able to put together one scoring drive, a 10-play, 63-yard march that ended with Blake McLawhorn’s 18-yard TD strike to Jeffrey Gunter.
In the fourth quarter, the Chargers dominated.
After stopping ED on downs at the 3-yard line, the Chargers put together a textbook 16-play, 97-yard possession that also culminated in a McLawhorn to Gunter scoring pass, this one from 24 yards with 3:40 to play.
A-G then recovered the ensuing kickoff before coming up just short on the potential overtime-forcing drive.
The Panthers ran just three offensive plays in the fourth quarter, the last one a quarterback kneel-down to run out the clock.
“If we hold on to a couple of passes, we have a real chance to win,” Cornwell said. “Blake (McLawhorn) threw the ball well for the most part, but our receivers let him down a few times. We dropped a couple of potential touchdown passes.”
McLawhorn completed just 7 of 18 passes, but six of those misfires were the result of drops. He did throw one costly interception, which came at the Panther 19 in the third quarter.
“We have nothing to hang our heads about,” Cornwell said. “East Duplin is going to win a ton of ballgames. We played hard, didn’t roll over and had a chance to win at the end.
"We took a step forward this week.”