Things appeared dismal for the Fighting Scots in the third quarter as New Hanover continued their methodical approach on both offense and defense. The Wildcats continued to lean heavily on Baldwin to great effect, and while New Hanover notched their second-straight scoreless quarter, they did so after controlling the majority of the clock yet again.
On the night, the Wildcats rushed 47 times for more than 300 punishing yards.
Things arguably hit rock bottom for Scotland when they received their second chop block penalty of the game, a 15-yard loss that resulted in a third-and-27 on an offensive series that the Fighting Scots simply had to convert.
And at this most desperate moment, Ratliffe turned to his big-play receiver for arguably the highlight of the night.
After using his quickness to buy some time, Ratliffe fired a pass in the direction of the 6’3” TreShawn Gregory who made a spectacular leaping grab that went for 29-yards and an improbable first down. Suddenly there was new life in the Fighting Scots, and on the same drive, running back James McLean finally broke through the stifling Wildcat run defense for a game-breaking 15-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 14 a piece.
Prior to this run, McLean had just eight rushing yards on five carries.
Scotland’s renewed momentum proved contagious on defense, as senior inside linebacker Chris Moss finally stuffed Baldwin late in the third quarter to bring about a critical fourth down. But an excellent punt from New Hanover’s Alan Wells led to a fourth-down situation for the Scots’ offense deep in their own territory with seconds left in the third quarter.
Scotland’s subsequent punt would land at their own 36 yard-line as the third quarter expired.
Entering the final 12 minutes of regulation, New Hanover’s Brown was utterly silent as Coleman continued to look rattled in the pocket throughout the game. But his first catch turned out to be New Hanover’s biggest third down conversion of the night, as Brown netted 10 yards to keep a reeling Wildcats’ offense on the field. Several plays and valuable minutes off the clock later, it would be two-yard bruising run by Baldwin that would put New Hanover back on top of the Fighting Scots.
The touchdown would restore the balance back in New Hanover’s favor.
On their first offensive series of the fourth quarter, Scotland’s offense was once again halted when, on fourth down, Bailey attempted a fake punt which proved unsuccessful and resulted in a turnover on their own 38 yard line. The Fighting Scots appeared all but defeated when New Hanover once again leaned on Baldwin for a series of time-consuming first downs.
But then a miracle happened. With just over two minutes left to play, Coleman fumbled a snap which was promptly recovered by Scotland outside linebacker Artemis Robinson to give the Fighting Scots one last gasp at protecting their undefeated streak.
With the game placed in his hands for the two-minute drill, Ratliffe caught fire and nearly pulled off the unthinkable.
After a New Hanover pass interference penalty gave Scotland a fresh set of downs, Ratliffe completed a 23-yard strike to Tyron Jones to put the ball into Wildcats territory. Ratliffe would then complete an 11-yard pass to McNeil-Jones.
But on his next catch, McNeil-Jones would fumble the ball as he ran along the sidelines which resulted in a New Hanover recovery.
“I’m sure his heart was breaking after the fumble,” said Scotland head coach Richard Bailey. “But he made a mistake while fighting his hardest to make a play, and that’s what matters.”
After recording several deliberate delay of game penalties once Scotland’s timeouts ran dry, New Hanover would allow an intentional safety to drain the remaining seconds off the clock.
With that, the 21-16 final score and Scotland’s broken winning streak were set in stone.
While he acknowledged New Hanover’s effective game plan and the mistakes of his own team, Bailey refused to allow himself or the Fighting Scots to lower their heads in defeat.
“A lot of our miscues were self-inflicted, which killed many of our offensive drives,” Bailey said. “But these guys kept battling the entire game, and I couldn’t be more proud of their effort.”
Scotland 16, New Hanover 21
SHS — Jaylend Ratliffe to TreShawn Gregory 18-yard TD pass (Ben Utter PAT)
NH— Ramone Simpson 2-yard TD run (Alan Wells PAT)
NH —Montrell Baldwin 8-yard TD run (Wells PAT)
SHS — Jalen McLean 15-yard TD run (Utter PAT)
NH —Montrell Baldwin 2-yard TD run (Wells PAT)
SHS— SAFETY (2 pts.)
TEAM STATISTICS ;
Passing yards;138; 17
NH: Montrell Baldwin 30 carries-167 yards, Ramone Simpson 11 carries-118 yards, Jacen Murphy 4 carries-25 yards, Ward Coleman 1 carry-3 yards, Trevon Brown 1 carry-(-3) yards.
SHS: Jaylend Ratliffe 7 carries-42 yards, Jalen McLean 9 carries-28 yards, Josh McPhatter 2 carries-6 yards.
NH: Ward Coleman 4-13, 17 yards, no TDs, no INTs.
SHS: Jaylend Ratliffe 11-22, 138 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT.
NH: Trevon Brown 2 catches-12 yards, Trevon Holliday 1 catch-10 yards, Jacen Murphy 1 catch-(-5) yards.
SHS: TreShawn Gregory 5 catches-75 yards, Tralon McNeil-Jones 4 catches-34 yards, Tyron Jones 2 catches-29 yards.
RECORDS: New Hanover 2-0, SHS 1-1