LAURINBURG — It was only fitting that after putting his body on the line the entire game that Fighting Scots quarterback Warren Bell was the one carrying in the ball on the two-point conversion in overtime to punch his team’s ticket to state.
Four quarters weren’t enough to decide the 4A Eastern Regional Champion as Scotland and Hoggard found themselves knotted at 39 at the end of regulation.
In overtime, play is un-timed and each team starts at the 10-yard line and has four plays to get into the end zone. If each team scores and is successful in their extra point attempt overtime continues until one team doesn’t score, misses the extra point or executes a two-point conversion.
Hoggard opened overtime with a one-play drive as quarterback Josh Jones found wide receiver Anthony Schiavone in the left corner of the end zone. The extra point was successful giving the Vikings a 46-39 lead.
Bell and the Scots offense marched onto the field and after two attempts Bell muscled his way into the end zone for the sixth time.
Scotland head coach Richard Bailey made a gutsy call and put his faith into Bell to get into the end zone one final time on the two-point conversion.
As the offense lined up with Bell called for the ball from center Hunter Sheppard. In that moment, there was no sound in Pate Stadium, the thousands of people in attendance were holding their breath waiting to see if Bailey’s gamble was going to pay off.
With two Hoggard defenders clinging to him, Bell broke the plane of the end zone — Scotland 47 Hoggard 46.
The Scotland sideline emptied onto the field and the cheers from the fans in attendance was deafening as the realization set in that Fighting Scots were 4A Eastern Champions and were headed to Winston Salem for the state championship.
“I just felt like it was the right call, it was just one of those things, my heart said it. God and Warren Bell — two good people to have faith in,” said Bailey. “A lot of pressure coaching Scotland County and making that call. Had he not scored I’m sure I would have heard about it for a long time.”
Scotland nearly squandered a 25-point lead in the final two quarters of regulation.
Even though Fighting Scots senior tailback Zamir White wasn’t physically on the field Friday his quarterback made sure he was there in spirit.
Bell paid homage to his teammate and friend by wearing White’s helmet, towel and cleats.
It took Bell and the Scots nearly 11 minutes to score the game’s first touchdown — after their first two attempts were called back due to holding penalties.
The Scots defense avenged the penalties and senior Kalish McNair recovered a fumble by Hoggard to give the offense a short field.
Two plays after McQueen’s score was called back, Bell rumbled into the end zone. The extra point by senior Tripp Wells gave the Scots a 7-0 lead with 1:08 left in the first quarter.
The defense brought the crowd to their feet yet again as sophomore Muhamed Kaba forced a fumble.
Bell took a late hit out of bounds from Hoggard on the first play of the second quarter. The hit moved the ball to the six-yard line and one play later Bell powered his way into the end zone to give the Scots a 14-0 lead.
The Scots took a 20-0 lead following a 22-yard third down pass from Bell to senior Khalil Smith that gave the Scots first and goal. A run by McQueen followed by a two-yard touchdown run by Bell.
Hoggard responded with a two minute drive that resulted in a touchdown pass from Vikings quarterback Josh Jones to wide receiver Anthony Schiavone with 2.1 seconds left on the clock. The extra point by the Vikings made it a 21-7 Scots lead at the break.
An interception by senior Tyrek Waters let to a five-yard touchdown by McQueen to give the Scots a 32-7 lead in the fourth quarter after an unsuccessful two-point conversion.
Hoggard responded with back-to-back touchdowns and a 44-yard field goal after two perfectly executed on-side kicks.
“A 25-point lead in the fourth quarter and we about blew it. They did a great job onside kicking and we work on that in practice and we just couldn’t cover it,” said Bailey. “We got a little beat up in the secondary and they took advantage of it.”
With five minutes left Hoggard tied the game 32-32 — three plays later Bell put the Scots back on top 39-32.
The Vikings refused to give up and one play after the kick Jones threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to tie the game — again.
Bell and the Scots offense did their best to win the game during regulation, on the final play of the fourth quarter, Bell threw a pass to receiver Bruce Wall in the right corner of the end zone. The pass fell incomplete as Wall hit the ground.
“You have to give Hoggard credit, they could have given up, but they fought,” said Bailey.
Hoggard continued to fight scoring on the first play of overtime and kicking a successful extra point before Bell put the team on his back and got the Scots over the hump.
“What can I say about our kids — our offense line and Warren Bell and Smiley — and just how hard they fought. They wanted it so bad, I just felt like Hoggard had a little momentum and we had to go for two at the end. I didn’t like our chances if we kept going back and forth,” said Bailey. “They have a very good kicker and we had been a little inconsistent already missing one. I just felt like I was going to put it in Warren Bell’s hands and we were going to go as far as he could tote us.”
The Fighting Scots will play the No. 1 team in the West Harding University next Saturday, Dec. 9 in Winston-Salem in the 4A state championship.
“It will be my fifth time in the game, second time since being at Scotland,” said Bailey. “We have one game for all the marbles and that’s all you can ask for is a chance. We’re just going to keep knocking on the door and hopefully make it happen next Saturday in Winston-Salem.”
The 4A state championship game will be held on the campus of Wake Forest, kick off is scheduled for 12 p.m. on Dec. 9.
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.