Rams can't contain Eden Morehead in 42-35 loss.

If Eden Morehead could have possibly played any better football against the Havelock Rams Friday night in the second round of the state playoffs – it’s anybody’s guess as to how.

The 10th-seeded Panthers scored on six of nine possessions, amassing 356 total yards, in beating the second-seeded Rams 42-35 Friday at Havelock High.

“I told our kids that sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce your way,” Havelock coach Jim Bob Bryant said. “Morehead is a really good football team, and we win as a team and we lose as a team.”

A year after throwing four interceptions against the Rams in a first-round playoff loss a year ago, Eden Morehead quarterback Will Dabbs accounted for all six Panther touchdowns on Friday night, throwing for three and running for three.

Dabbs was 16 of 19 for 213 yards passing and added 79 yards on the ground on 32 carries.

“I told our guys when we began preparing last week to remember the feeling they had last year when we came down here and got beat,” Morehead coach Earl Bates said. “The last four, five weeks, we really have been playing close to perfect football, and I think by us beating Northern Guilford at the end of the year gave these kids a lot of confidence going into the playoffs.”

In the end, Havelock simply couldn’t stop the Panthers, who converted on 14 of 17 third downs.

“We couldn’t get off the field,” Bryant said, complimenting Morehead’s balanced offense.

He also had high praise for Dabbs.

“Their quarterback is as good a football player as I’ve seen this year,” he said. “He might not be 6-3 and 220 pounds with a rocket arm, but he’s a football player. Anytime your starting quarterback starts at outside linebacker on defense and is the defensive football player of the year in the conference, you’re a football player. That’s what he is.”

Havelock quarterback Corey Cooper and running back Tony Sharpe tried to keep up with the Morehead offense. Cooper ran 14 times for 116 yards and was 8 of 16 through the air for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Sharpe ran 11 times for 92 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

A key drive in the game came midway through the third quarter, when a fumble put the Rams in a deep hole inside Panther territory. Eden Morehead held defensively on fourth down, and then got Dabbs’ 10-yard touchdown run to lead 35-21 with 2:32 left in the period. Havelock never caught up.

“I kept having this feeling that somebody had to stop the other team sooner or later, and luckily it was us,” Bates said.

The Rams had one last chance after Makai Collins recovered a fumble, and Cooper found Khalil Barrett for a 25-yard touchdown pass with 2:43 left in the game, drawing Havelock to within 42-35. However, the ensuing onside kick attempt escaped the fingertips of Barrett and slipped out of bounds, and the Panthers were able to run out the clock.

Havelock was bidding to become the first 3A team in state history to reach the state championship game five consecutive seasons. The Rams had reached the eastern regional championship six consecutive seasons and had not lost this early in the playoffs since a 2008 first-round exit against Washington in Bryant’s first season as coach.

Havelock finishes the year 12-1.

“I’m proud of this team,” Bryant said. “The kids we have now in this program are high-character kids, and they are a joy to coach. This group of seniors has led this young team, and we are a young team, and that gives up hope for next year and the next several years.”

Morehead advances to play Rocky Mount in next week’s third round.

Boxscore:

Morehead 14 7 14 7 - 42

Havelock 14 7 0 14 – 35

First Quarter

H – Tony Sharpe 10 run (John Mills kick)

M – Jadakiss Jumper 51 pass from Will Dabbs (Kevin Jauregui kick)

H – Trey Owens 18 pass from Corey Cooper (Mills kick)

M – Kyle Corum 8 pass from Dabbs (Jauregui kick)

Second Quarter

M – Dabbs 1 run (Jauregui kick)

H – Quinzel Lockhart 32 pass from Zach Sabdo (Mills kick)

Third Quarter

M – Corum 7 pass from Dabbs (Jauregui kick)

M – Dabbs 9 run (Jauregui kick)

Fourth Quarter

H – Sharpe 1 run (Mills kick)

M – Dabbs 3 run (Jauregui kick)

H – Khalil Barrett 25 pass from Cooper (Mills kick)

Team Statistics:

HHS MHS

Total Offense 363 356

First Downs 16 19

Rushes-Yards 28-211 49-143

Passing Yards 152 213

Comp-Att-Int 11-22-1 16-19-0

Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-1

Penalties-Yards 4-45 3-30

Punts-Avg. 1-22.0 0-0.0

Individual Statistics:

Passing: Morehead – Will Dabbs 16-19 for 213 yards (3 TD). Havelock – Corey Cooper 8-16 for 96 yards (2 TD), Zach Sabdo 3-6 for 56 yards (TD, INT).

Rushing: Morehead – Dabbs 32-79 (3 TD), Daunte King 11-60, Jadakiss Jumper 3-4, Mike Jones 2-2, Isaiah Broadnax 1-(-2). Havelock – Cooper 14-116, Tony Sharpe 11-92 (2 TD), Trey Owens 2-4, Solomon Beligotti 1-(-1).

Receiving: Morehead – Jumper 6-103 (TD), Jones 7-91, Kyle Corum 4-37 (2 TD). Havelock – Quinzel Lockhart 3-40 (TD), Owens 3-40, Jeffrey Harris 3-31, Khalil Barrett 1-25 (TD), Kenyatta Frazier 2-16.

Jordan Honeycutt is a reporter for the Sun Journal. Havelock News Editor Ken Buday contributed to this story.