LAURINBURG — Jaylend Ratliffe connected with Trejon Monley for a 53-yard pass with under 40 seconds to play in the game Friday, and then ran it in from the 2-yard line two plays later to give Scotland a 24-17 win over Knightdale in a thrilling third-round playoff contest.
Scotland’s defense stopped the Knights on fourth down on the 31-yard line with 1:45 left in the game, and the offense took it down the field to get the winning score, advancing Scotland to the next round of the Class 4A state playoffs. The Scots managed to win the game despite losing five fumbles.
Scotland coach Richard Bailey decided to go for the long pass after the offense had stalled out on the previous possession after three runs for minimal yardage.
“We were a little worried about pass protection with them blitzing so much. I don’t know how Monley had any energy left, but their guy (Jamie Brown) was worn down too and Monley ran right by him. I can’t believe in that situation that Trejon was able to get behind him,” Bailey said.
The catch moved the Scots down to 5-yard line where Ratliffe ran it twice. He gained 3 yards on the first play and found the end zone on the second, after leaping into the air between his linemen and stretching the ball out across the goal line.
Knightdale had tied the game with a 21-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter, and then had the chance to end the game when they took over at the 39-yard line with four minutes to play. The Knights forced Scotland to punt the ball back on its next possession, and a shanked punt from Ben Utter set the Knights up on Scotland’s 39-yard line with the game on the line.
But the defense stayed firm and Knightdale elected to go for it on fourth-and-two instead of putting their kicker on the field for the long attempt. He had missed a 28-yard kick at the end of the first half that would have tied the game.
Knightdale attempted to run for a first down, but Scotland’s defense swarmed and made the stop. Quarterback Marquavious Johnson had been shredding Scotland’s defense late in the game, but he couldn’t find a running lane on the crucial play.
Until the final drive, turnovers were the story of the night. Ratliffe lost the ball in the red zone in the first quarter and linebacker Marcell Johnson returned it 91-yards for a touchdown for Knightdale’s first score. The Scots had two fumbles on punt returns that gave Knightdale the ball back, and another from linebacker Brandon McMillian on the kickoff after Knightdale scored its second touchdown to draw within three. McMillian does not usually return kickoffs, but was put in the unusual position when the Knights kicked it short, and away from Monley.
Despite all the turnovers, Scotland still led 10-7 at halftime, and held Knightdale to 42 total yards in the first half. The Knights played better in the second half as they finished with over 200 yards on the ground, most of which came from the quarterback.
“He’s a dynamic guy and made a lot of plays, but the defense did what they needed to do and then Trejon (Monley) came up with the big play there,” Bailey said.
Ratliffe scored in the second quarter on a 1-yard run and back Josh McPhatter added another on a 9-yard carry in the third quarter. Utter also kicked a field goal in the second quarter. But Scotland struggled to move the ball on Knightdale’s defense, which liked to put pressure on the offensive line.
“We just had difficulty blocking their guys up front. Monley bailed us out and the defense played great,” Bailey said.
“It’s one of those games were we just pulled it out and kept fighting,” he said.
The defense line, which was already thin with starter Shy’Keim Oliver on the bench with a concussion injury, lost one of its anchors early in the first quarter. Lineman Avery Simmons had to leave the game with an ankle injury, and will not be able to return, Bailey said.