It was the second round of the Statewide Athletics Committee (S.W.A.C) state tournament, and the Scotland County All-Stars found themselves involved in a bruising battle with High Point heading into the final minute of the fourth quarter.
Down just six points, Scotland County began pushing the ball down-field in an attempt to notch a heroic comeback victory at Legion Field in front of their hometown fans. But with no timeouts remaining, the All-Stars’ last-minute drive would stall at High Point’s 30-yard line as both the time on the clock, and Scotland County’s season, finally expired.
The final score read 20-14 in favor of High Point, which effectively ended Scotland County’s dreams of winning its’ first state tournament championship since the 2008 season.
And while his team endured a heartbreaking loss, head coach Darwin “Duke” Williams pulled his players aside afterwards and reminded them all that their on-field accomplishments outweigh a notch in the win or loss column.
“I assured them that the sun would come up the next morning and that life would go on regardless if they lost,” Williams said. “In football just like in life, somebody has to win and lose and that they need to be prepared to fall on either side of the fence. But as long as they keep their love for football and continue to play the right way, then losing won’t matter.”
The High Point All-Stars have been a team that has steamrolled their competition since forming after the official end of the Parks and Recreation season. And visiting the Scotland County All-Stars on Dec. 1, a first-quarter offensive explosion had High Point poised to do it yet again.
On the very first play from scrimmage, High Point would notch a 65-yard rushing touchdown and later follow up with another score to vault out to a 14-0 lead over Scotland County.
But rather than let his young team allow High Point’s fast start to crush their confidence, Williams opted to settle his players down and encourage them to return to the form they showed two weeks ago in a 32-0 victory over Person County.
“I told my guys that a game takes four quarters to finish, and that they can’t change what already happened,” Williams said. “We had to move on and play our style of football, and from then on they did a great job of containing High Point’s offense.”
With just under four minutes left in the second quarter, Scotland County finally answered back with arguably the offensive play of the game. All-Stars’ quarterback Savon Wall would find a seam in the High Point secondary and connect with Israel Fields, who made the over-the-shoulder catch, broke two tackles and outran his pursuers for a 57-yard touchdown.
The pass-and-catch was a play that Williams described as “something that 11 year-olds shouldn’t be able to do.”
After a successful two-point conversion, he first half ended with High Point up 14-8 over Scotland County.
Midway through the third quarter, Scotland County would tie the game at 14-14 after a 10-yard touchdown scamper by Kenneth Quick while the High Point offense continued to sputter.
However, High Point’s ability to score hinged on its’ big-play ability, and at the six-minute mark in the fourth quarter, they struck again on a 48-yard touchdown run that saw several Scotland miss tackling opportunities, a recurring theme in the game.
After one last chance to tie or take the lead, Scotland fell just 30-yards short of their goal.
But with several players hopefully returning to the Scotland County Parks and Recreation youth football league next season, Williams feels that his team has more runs left in the tank.
“I’m extremely proud of this team and thankful to the parents for allowing these players to come out this season,” Williams said. “I encourage these players to do some soul-searching in the off-season and hopefully come back to pursue their dreams again. Every year we’re going to compete and fight hard just like Scotland County athletes have always done.”