LAURINBURG — When the Scots got the ball with seven minutes to play, up by five points, they did what they have done all season. They quickly drove the field and scored a touchdown to put the game out of reach.
This touchdown came on a 29-yard run, when Scotland quarterback Jaylend Ratliffe burst out to the right side and took off for the end zone in one of his six rushing touchdowns of the night as Scotland defeated Greenville Rose 53-40.
Scotland added another touchdown 90 seconds later when linebacker Tyquan Ingram picked off a pass and returned it to the 5-yard line of Scotland, setting Ratliffe up for another touchdown run. Ingram also had a fumble recovery on Rose’s first drive of the game.
“I just knew we had to make a big play and I was just there at the right time,” Ingram said. “It felt great, now it’s time to go to the championship. Last year we were so close. I’m just glad for the seniors that we get another chance this year.”
It seemed like Scotland was going to pull away earlier in the game with 31-19 lead after Rose’s starting quarterback Khalil Smith was injured on a scramble with two seconds left in the first half and knocked out of the game — but wide receiver Cornell Powell replaced him for the second half and sparked a Rampants rally.
Powell, more of a runner than a passer, used the play-action to open up running holes for himself. He ran 36 yards for a score and threw a 47-yard touchdown pass on a trick play in the third quarter. Then Rose put in yet another quarterback, Asa Alexander, who threw a touchdown with just over seven minutes left to make it 38-33, in favor of Scotland.
Scotland coach Richard Bailey said his defense took a while to adjust to the change in the quarterback position after Smith was knocked out, but came through when it mattered most.
“Our kids kept battling and fighting. Greenville Rose is a dangerous team on offense and they have playmakers,” Bailey said. “We made enough stops at the end to get the job done. Offensively an unbelievable night, but the defense came up with some big turnovers for us and gave us good field position. I’m very proud of our kids and our coaches.”
With so much time left in the game, Rose elected to trust its defense and kick off to the Scots. However, the Scots were able to responded and Ratliffe ran it in. The 80-yard drive took just 90 seconds off the clock.
Robert McKoy also had an interception, and set the Scots up with great field position in the first half when Rose kicked it short on kickoffs to avoid dangerous return man Trejon Monley.
Ratliffe scored on runs of 3-, 3-, 7-, 5-, 29- and 5-yards. He also connected with Logan Hatcher for a 42-yard pass in the first quarter. Bailey credited the offensive efficiency to the performance of the offensive line.
“The offensive line did a much better job tonight and the execution was much better. Jaylend is a special player and there’s a reason he’s a big time guy, but he had a lot of blocking tonight and a lot of people giving maximum effort,” Bailey said.
Ratliffe ran the ball 25 times for 204 yards on the game, and completed 8-0f-16 pass attempts for 166 yards. Hatcher led the team with 106 receiving yards.
The Scots advance to the Class 4A state championship game next Saturday, when they will face Dudley.