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By Becky Kimbrell-Norris
LAURINBURG— Getting to post season play for the second time in their short four year history was one thing for the Heritage High School football team but staying in the postseason would be quite another.
The visiting Huskies fell behind top seed Scotland High 28-7 in the first quarter Friday night and couldn’t dig out of that hole. Heritage, 6-6, lost 56-21 to the Fighting Scots in the opening round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs.
“We kept fighting and played with a lot of pride,” said Husky football coach Jason McGeorge. “We were in a tough place to play and got down early, but the players really showed what great competitors they are by continuing to play their hearts out.”
“I am very, very proud of each member of this football team,” McGeorge added.
Scotland quarterback Jaylend Ratliffe completed ten of 15 passes for 190 yards, including three touchdowns, all to Jalen Tyson.
As for Heritage, quarterback Blake Walters passed 14 times and completed just five passes for 106 yards and one touchdown to senior Jalen Parson. He was also picked off two times by the Scots defense.
Scotland, 12-0, also outrushed the Huskies 195 to 148 yards.
“Scotland is an excellent football team and they have a lot of talent,” McGeorge said. “They were a lot bigger on the lines and they were able to lean against us and wear us down.”
Scotland head football coach Richard Bailey said he didn’t know much about Heritage, except that they competed in a tough Cap 8 Conference.
“Coach McGeorge has a good resume and we didn’t know a lot about them,” Bailey said, “which made it difficult to prepare for them.”
Bailey said he was able to get a few of Heritage’s games on film and knew they had beaten some good football teams.
“We just have to trust what we see on film but I was very impressed with them and they played a scrappy game,” Bailey said “They took away some of the things we do well like running the ball and forced us to throw more than usual.”
The Huskies owned the momentum first after scoring on their opening drive, which was capped by a three yard rushing touchdown by junior running back Matt Baker.
Matt Sattler’s extra point kick gave Heritage a 7-0 lead.
After falling behind, the Scots scored four times in the first quarter, including a touchdown that stemmed from a 65-yard punt return.
“I was pleased with the way we played against them,” Bailey said. “It was not our best game and Heritage had a lot to do with that. They played hard and you could tell they didn’t want their season to end.”
The second quarter was scoreless and the score stood 28-7 during the half.
“After the first quarter, we settled down and played more gap responsible football,” McGeorge said. “Offensively we were trying to stay in the race and that is not our style of football.”
“We needed to control the ball,” McGeorge added. “When we start forcing throws and keep putting our defense on the field, we struggle.”
Ratliffe scored on a 31-yard run with 5:08 left in the third quarter and two minutes later he threw his third touchdown pass, extending the Scots lead to 42-7, heading into the final 12 minutes.
Heritage began moving the ball in the fourth quarter and added two touchdowns. Baker scored his second touchdown and found the end zone on a 13-yard rushing score and Walters connected with Parson for a 30-yard reception with 6:20 left in the game.
“It wasn’t really the type of game I expected with Scotland,” McGeorge said. “I expected us to compete for a chance to win.”
“Our players did play hard the entire game and I am very happy and proud of their effort,” he added.
Abdul Sesay was Heritage’s leading rusher with 79 yards on 11 carries.
Defensively, Jeff Gemmell and Beze Uzoma led Heritage in tackles with eight and six, respectively.
Though Heritage couldn’t pull off what would have been a major upset, the 18 Husky seniors will be remembered fondly for being the first four-year class at the school.
“They have been the heart and soul of our program for four years,” McGeorge said. “They are very special and we will miss them dearly. They have set a very high standard to many classes to come.”
McGeorge and his remaining players will soon begin work on the school’s fourth varsity program after three seasons he termed successful.
“I am very happy for this team and very proud of what they have accomplished,” he said. “These young men have helped this program establish itself in a very short time.”
“We have played three varsity seasons and made the playoffs twice and that is because of these young men working very hard,” McGeorge went on to say. “We will continue to grow and we will have a lot more opportunities.”
McGeorge also complemented the support his team received this season.
“The Hooligans showed tremendous support for all sports programs and were able to win the local award for best student section,” he said. “I think in the short time of the school, the students, faculty and community have really bought into the Husky pride and it makes our players so proud each Friday.”