The Tucker Creek Middle School Mustangs scored on their first offensive play. But it wasn’t until the last play of the game that victory over rival Havelock Middle and the Cary Godette Trophy were secured.
Tucker Creek got a tie-breaking touchdown to start the third quarter and made the lead hold up in a 20-14 victory over the rival Trojans Wednesday at Havelock High.
“It is always the hardest-fought game when Havelock Middle and Tucker Creek play,” Tucker Creek coach Michael Sloan said. “If you watched the game the last four years, you’d have seen it.”
With Tucker Creek leading 20-14, Havelock Middle got a defensive stop with 41 seconds left at its own 26-yard line. Quarterback Jeffery Harris’ pass to Kendall Frazier and his own scramble put the Trojans at the Mustang 40 with 21 seconds left. However, the Trojans would get no closer to the end zone, and a fourth-down pass up the left sideline fell incomplete as the Mustangs celebrated victory.
Not only did the Mustangs win back the Cary Godette Trophy, but they avenged a 20-14 non-conference loss in the first game of the year to the Trojans, who scored on the game’s final play to win.
“That game taught us a lot,” Sloan said of the first meeting. “We learned we had a lot of improvement to do, and we got better each week.”
Tucker Creek opened the scoring on its first offensive play, when Montrece Gatling ran 65 yards for a touchdown. Khalil Barrett ran in the two-point conversion, lifting the Mustangs to an 8-0 lead with 5:31 left in the first quarter.
Gatling was key for the Mustangs. He played running back and lined up as the wildcat quarterback, ripping off 4- and 5-yard runs late in the fourth quarter to help Tucker Creek burn the clock.
“He’s one of our team leaders. He’s led the team all year,” Sloan said of Gatling. “We had only five returning players from last year, and he was one of them, and he had only played in two games because he was hurt. But he and Destin Flloyd, they took it upon themselves to lead this team.”
But the Trojans weren’t about to give up. Harris connected with Frazier on a 40-yard touchdown pass, and Harris’ pass to Jomar Stewart on the two-point conversion tied the game at 8-8 with 2:12 left in the first quarter.
Havelock Middle went on top 14-8 midway through the second quarter on Tony Sharpe’s 32-yard touchdown run.
“We played about how we’ve played all year,” Havelock Middle coach Phillip Melton said. “That’s our team. We’d big-play it here and there, but what’s hurt us all year was the physical teams, we’re just not that physical. And they’ve got a good team and they’re big across the front.”
Tucker Creek got the tying touchdown on Gatling’s 3-yard run with just five seconds left in the first half. The Mustangs got the ball to start the third quarter and scored the go-ahead touchdown on Solomon Beligotti’s 50-yard run.
The defenses then took over for the rest of the game. Tucker Creek’s Brandyn Taylor had a big sack to force a Trojans punt, and Harris intercepted a Mustangs pass inside his own 10-yard line to stop a scoring threat.
“Our kids played hard,” Melton said. “It’s a good bunch. They feel bad about it, but you’re supposed to feel bad when you get beat. But I was pleased with them, and 5-2 is no shabby season.”
With the victory, Tucker Creek finished 5-2 overall and took second place in the Coastal Middle School Conference. Havelock Middle School had won two straight in the series for the Cary Godette Trophy, including last year’s 22-16 triumph. Tucker Creek cut the Trojans’ lead in the overall series for the trophy to 9-7.
“It means a lot,” Sloan said of the victory. “It’s bragging rights, and it’s a little bit of pride. It’s something they’ll carry with them. They talk about it in high school about who wins this game.
“What can I say? It’s great football and it bodes well for Havelock High School so they can win more state championships.”
For more pictures from the game, click here: http://portal.havenews.com/photogallery/?CatID=17&AlbumID=1893