LAURINBURG — Jaylend Ratliffe rushed for four touchdowns and threw for another Friday night as Scotland beat New Bern 43-27 to advance to the third round of the Class 4A playoffs and avenge their loss in last season’s semifinal game.
In a battle between two running quarterbacks, Ratliffe was the one that led his team to victory. He rushed the ball 24 times, picking up 176 yards and the four scores on runs of 4-, 12-, 1- and 25-yards. He connected with Ty McLaurin in the third quarter for a 74-yard touchdown. Ratliffe finished the night 9-for-14 through the air for 133 yards.
Ratliffe said he was so excited for a second chance to play New Bern that he didn’t sleep well in the days leading up to the showdown. The Bears ended the season for Ratliffe and his teammates with a 23-6 win last year. But this game was entirely different.
“These boys came out here and played hard but I think we just wanted it more. We had that intensity,” Ratliffe said. “Last year they took something that we wanted, took our ring basically. So for them to come back to our field this year is a blessing.”
Ratliffe said that all week the team anticipated having to through the ball several times against New Bern’s defense, but the offensive line asserted itself and opened up the running game, Scotland’s strength.
“My boys blocked well today. I’m thankful for them,” Ratliffe said.
Scotland coach Richard Bailey said the offensive line played well against the strong defensive line of the Bears.
“I’m proud of our offensive line. Nobody has driven the ball on New Bern all year and we were able to drive it on them consistently tonight,” Bailey said.
New Bern was led by junior quarterback Mike Hughes, who has been the Bears’ version of Ratliffe this season. Hughes made a few electrifying plays, especially with his legs. He had two touchdown runs of 28- and 20-yards and passed for another, a 28-yard pass in the final seconds of the first half.
“I held our breath every time he had the ball … there’s a reason he’s getting major D-I offers,” Bailey said.
Hughes rushed for 99 yards on the night, and was 11-for-24 on pass attempts for over 100-yards.
But Hughes and the Bears were already behind 23-0 before they could get their offense going. Before their touchdown scored with 10 seconds left in the first half, New Bern had punted three times, turned the ball over twice and given up a safety when the snapped ball deflected off of Hughes’ leg and rolled out of the end zone.
Josh McPhatter busted through on Scotland’s second possession for a 70-yard touchdown run to open the scoring. Then Ratliffe added two of his own before the break. After halftime, it was more of the same. Ratliffe ran two more scores in and threw to McLaurin for the long bomb.
“Ratliffe played phenomenal,” Bailey said. “And I though McPhatter proved himself tonight, he was fast and physical.”
McPhatter finished the game with nine carries for 135 tards.
Now the Scots must prepare for Knightdale, which won over Hillside 16-15 Friday night. Bailey said the team just needs to continue focusing on the next game.
“I told them before this game the most important game you’re ever going to play is right now,” Bailey said. “I’m so proud of our coaching staff and our players. We fought hard for this one.”