Scotland coach Richard Bailey looked visibly tired after his team stopped Marlboro County on the 20-yard line with five seconds left to pull off a 21-14 win in South Carolina. And he had good reason to be. Bailey called Friday’s victory the hardest win of his career.
Quarterback Jaylend Ratliffe lead the Scots on a 56-yard drive to score the go-ahead touchdown with 2:21 left in the game, overcoming a disastrous first half.
“I’ve never yelled ,screamed and fought harder for a win in my life. I’ve never coached harder and our staff hasn’t coached harder,” Bailey said.
Scotland was trailing 14-13 when they got the ball at their own 44-yard line and began the winning drive. It looked like the Scots were fighting against themselves early in the drive as holding penalties called back three runs of over 12 yards. But Ratliffe kept pounding the ball through on the ground, advancing to Marlboro’s endzone in gains of five, eight and three yards.
Finally, he ran the ball up the middle from the 3-yard line for Scotland’s first touchdown since the first quarter. Scotland converted the two-point try to put themselves ahead by seven points.
En route to the winning score, Scotland’s play calling turned its focus towards the running quarterback, as he ran the ball almost every play on the four-minute drive.
Ratliffe had 29 rushes for 190 yards and two touchdowns. Bailey said he wanted the ball in the hands of his most reliable player when it mattered most.
“He’s the most reliable guy we have and he just wills us to victory. I hate to run him that many times but we were down and playing with two backups on the offensive line. “
Scotland had been trailing 14-10 at one point. Turnovers and penalties haunted the team all night long until Ratliffe put the game away. In the first quarter Marlboro forced a fumble on a Tre Thomas run, scooping the ball up and running it in from 25 yards out for their first touchdown. Later, in the second quarter, Ratliffe had the ball stripped from him on the 1-yard line just as it looked like Scotland would take the lead. The Scots lost three fumbles on the evening.
Ben Utter kicked two field goals for Scotland in the fourth quarter to draw them within one point. After his 25-yarder gave Scotland the 10-7 lead, Raheem Ward ran the next kickoff back to the house to put the Bulldogs back on top. Utter added a 31-yard kick with eight minutes to go to make it a 14-13 game.
The Bulldogs nearly had a rally of their own, but were stopped short on Scotland’s 20-yard line. Quarterback London Johnson had two passes broken up in the endzone and was forced to scramble on fourth down, coming up short of the marker and giving Scotland the ball back with just five seconds left on the clock.
Then the defense did what it had been doing all night, and got the ball back for its offense. The defense finished the game with a shutout. Bailey said he felt confident about kicking a field goal with eight minutes to go because of how well the defense had been playing all night.
“I felt like we’d get the ball back. The way the defense had been playing, they didn’t show me any signs that we wouldn’t,” Bailey said.
As expected, the young offensive line of the Scots struggled against Marlboro’s defense, which plays a style of defense featuring speedy linebackers, blitzes and confusion. The Scots were without starting guard Cordell Campbell and lost Dre Rivers to an injury during Friday’s game.
“They’re doing the best they can but we’re not going to win a lot of games if we can’t get guys back,” Bailey said. “We won’t win another one without some guys back. Marlboro did some good things. We were just playing with young kids.