Rams pull away late for a 41-28 victory in first round

Locked in a first-round playoff battle against Eastern Guilford, Havelock didn’t panic.

“I was relying on my boys, having faith in God, faith in my boys, faith in my coaches,” Havelock quarterback Corey Cooper said. “I knew through the effort the boys were going to give, we were going to get it done.”

Cooper threw for three touchdowns, and Tony Sharpe ran for three more, as the second-seeded Rams pulled away from the 15th-seeded Wildcats 41-28 Friday at Havelock High.

Havelock (12-0) advances to host 10th-seeded Eden Morehead (9-3) in the second round next week.

“We just beat a really good football team, no matter what their record is,” Havelock coach Jim Bob Bryant said of the 5-7 Wildcats. “They’ve got a really good football team. Our hat goes off to them. They played us tough for four quarters.”

The Wildcats played like anything but the 15th-seeded team in the playoffs, capitalizing on big plays and getting a 42-yard touchdown run from Bryant Barr and a 2-point pass from Dominique Graves to James Artis, tying the contest at 21-21 with 8:05 left in the third quarter.

“I just told them to keep calm and that we were wearing them down and that the fourth quarter would be our quarter,” Bryant said of what he told his players. “That’s what happened. The fourth quarter was our quarter. We stepped up and played good enough to win.”

Sharpe’s 2-yard touchdown put the Rams in front 27-21 with 3:53 left in the third quarter, but they had to dodge another bullet. Eastern Guilford seemingly had a chance to tie the game but dropped a long pass down the sideline at the 2-yard line. Instead of a touchdown, the Wildcats punted.

“We had a chance to go up 28-27. We had a guy wide open and he just didn’t make the catch,” Eastern Guilford coach Doug Robertson said. “That’s been kind of our year. We’ve been one or two plays away from being really good, and it came back to haunt us tonight against a really good football team.”

After the punt, the Rams marched 97 yards for a score. Sharpe’s 24-yard run on third-and-8 from the 5-yard line keyed the drive. Cooper converted another third down on a run and then threw a screen pass that Trey Owens took into the end zone from 19 yards out, giving the Rams a 33-21 lead with 9:11 left in the game.

“In that fourth quarter, being in such good shape, we pulled it out,” Cooper said. “All the conditioning we do, the weight training, that fourth quarter comes a lot easier when we’re better conditioned.”

Kenyatta Frazier’s 58-yard run set up Sharpe’s 2-yarder and lifted the Rams to a 41-21 lead with 6:07 left in the game.

Graves’ 11-yard score gave the Wildcats hope, and they then recovered an onside kick but were penalized for being offsides. The Rams recovered the next kick and ran out the clock.

“I think our guys played really hard, but we’re really not happy with the outcome,” Robertson said. “We came up here to win the game, so we’re disappointed. We played really hard. It’s tough to lose your last game.”

Quinzel Lockhart ran in a screen pass from Cooper on Havelock’s first possession, and Sharpe scored from three yards out for a quick 14-0 Ram lead.

Camron Smith booted a 32-yard field goal, and then Justin Bryant took a screen pass from Graves 80 yards for a score, cutting the Havelock lead 14-10 early in the second.

Donte Stackhouse caught Cooper’s 5-yard toss and Smith booted another 32-yard field goal for the Wildcats, accounting for the 21-13 Havelock lead at halftime.

“We played good enough to win,” Bryant said. “Survive and advance in the playoffs, survive and advance in the playoffs, that’s what we did. We’re happy to advance to the second round. We’ve got another home game in front of our home crowd, which is always a blessing.”

Scoring Summary

E. Guilford 3 10 8 7 -28

Havelock 14 7 6 14 -41

First Quarter

H – Quinzel Lockhart, 18-yard pass from Corey Cooper, John Mills kick, 9:45

H – Tony Sharpe, 3-yard run, Mills kick, 4:25

EG – Camron Smith, 32-yard field goal, 1:24

Second Quarter

EG – Justin Bryant, 80-yard pass from Dominique Graves, Smith kick, 5:49

H – Donte Stackhouse, 5-yard pass from Cooper, Mills kick, 1:07

EG – Smith, 32-yard field goal, :14

Third Quarter

EG – Bryant Barr, 42-yard run, James Artis 2-point pass from Graves, 8:05

H – Sharpe, 2-yard run, kick blocked, 3:53

Fourth Quarter

H – Trey Owens, 19-yard pass from Cooper, kick failed, 9:11

H – Sharpe, 2-yard run, Sharpe 2-point run, 6:07

EG – Graves, 11-yard run, Smith kick, 4:17