Hoke’s football team was minutes away from its first win in almost two years.
The Bucks just needed to stop Scotland from scoring in overtime on Friday night. After Hoke started the extra period with a touchdown to take a 27-20 lead, the Fighting Scots started their possession on the Bucks’ 10-yard line.
If Hoke’s defense held strong for for four downs, the Bucks would have gotten the best homecoming present they could have asked for: Their first win since Oct. 28, 2016, when they defeated Purnell Swett.
If Scotland scored a touchdown and connected on an extra point attempt, the overtime cycle would have repeated, adding another chapter to what had been a sloppy game for both teams.
A touchdown and a two-point conversion by the Scots was the worst possible outcome for the Bucks — and that’s exactly what happened.
Hoke’s sideline held its collective breath as Scotland’s Syheam “Smiley” McQueen jogged onto the field to join his team in overtime. It was the first time McQueen played since Aug. 24 against Durham Hillside, when he suffered an MCL sprain that sidelined him for Scotland’s next two games.
If Hoke had McQueen in their game plan, they didn’t have much time to make adjustments. McQueen opened the short drive with a 6-yard rush before scoring on a 4-yard run.
McQueen proceeded to end the game with a short touchdown run on Scotland’s two-point conversion attempt.
And for the first time that evening, the homecoming crowd in Raeford was silenced.
Hoke’s fans left the stadium on Friday night with many questions on their minds.
What went wrong on the Bucks’ final drive of the fourth quarter, when they took over on their own 40-yard line and had a chance to score a game-winning touchdown? Why didn’t Hoke call a timeout in overtime, knowing that its defense was struggling with its back against the wall?
Scotland certainly had questions to answer as well, but they weren’t going to worry about those yet.
At several times on Friday night, a victory seemed out of reach for the Scots. Both teams struggled with penalties and broken plays and turnovers throughout the night, and those issues seemed to hit Scotland at the most inopportune times.
One of those mistakes, an errant fourth-down snap by Scotland that set Hoke up on their final drive of the fourth quarter, could have costed the Scots the game.
But the Scots stepped up on both sides of the ball when it mattered most, and they were able to walk out of a lively homecoming environment with a 28-27 win.
The close victory might provide a confidence boost for the Scots as they prepare to take on Seventy-First, a team that has established itself early in the season as a contender in the SAC.
And when they Scots travel to Fayetteville to take on the Falcons this week, they’ll have an opportunity to spoil another homecoming party.
Brandon Tester can be reached at [email protected] or 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @BrandonTester.