LAURINBURG — Scotland defeated Greenville Rose 53-40 Friday night to advance to its second state championship game in three seasons, and did so behind a strong offensive line performance and a couple of key turnovers.
The Scots won the high-scoring game by sticking with the game plan that has gotten them to this point. They had a few more pass attempts than usual, but it was the legs of quarterback Jaylend Ratliffe and the push of the offensive line that put up the majority of the points.
Ratliffe rushed for six touchdowns on the night on 25 carries for 204 yards. Rose’s defense was able to contain the dual-threat quarterback for the majority of runs, but he still ran for a few explosive runs of over 20-yards. Five of the six rushing scores came from within the 7-yard marker. The exception was a 29-yard scamper in the fourth quarter, Ratliffe’s second-longest carry of the night. His biggest gain was a 34-yard run in the first half.
Scotland coach Richard Bailey said Ratliffe’s dominant game was a credit to how well the offensive line did with its assignments. The line did not have a terrible game against New Bern, but did miss a few blocks. Bailey said it was much improved for the fourth-round game.
“The line played one of their better games of the year,” Bailey said Monday during his weekly radio show on WLNC. ” I was very proud of the difference from the Knightdale game. It was actually probably a little better on film than I thought Friday night. I’m just very proud of those guys and coach (Rodney) Quick.”
The Scots also came up with a few big plays through the air when they needed to. Receiver Logan Hatcher had three receptions on the night for the Scots, including a 60-yard catch and a huge 42-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. Hatcher took the short screen play down the sidelines and into the end zone to make it 14-6 for Scotland.
Finally, the defense created three key turnovers. Tyquan Ingram forced a fumble on Rose’s first drive, setting the Scots for a drive that began on Rose’s 30-yard line. Ingram also intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter and returned it to the 5-yard line. Robert McKoy had an interception as well to end a Rose drive that had reached Scotland’s 7-yard line.
Now the Scots must prepare to face their final test of the season: Dudley High School of Greensboro, which is also undefeated this year. Dudley has made a name for itself with its defense, which during the regular season allowed an average of just 6.2 points per game. They completely shut out opponents on three occasions, and only allowed teams to score more than seven points twice — 20 to Southern Alamance and 11 to Southeast Guilford.
That strong defense has continued in the playoffs, as Dudley allowed 43 total points through the first four games. But Dudley has not had to depend on its defense to win the majority of its games, as the offense has clicked steadily along. Dudley is averaging 34.5 points per game in the postseason. It was much the same as the regular season, when the Panthers averaged 37.6 points per game as they breezed through the 10-game schedule.
Tickets are now on sale for the final, which will be played at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday. Tickets can be bought in advance at the Scotland High School main office or Shirt Tale’s for $9. Tickets bought at the gate will be $10. Only cash will be accepted.