BENNETTSVILLE, S.C. — Rivalry games on the road are always tough, but even the Scotland players and coaching staff couldn’t have foreseen the slugfest that awaited them when they arrived in Bennettsville Friday night.
The Scots were coming off a 42-13 win in Charlotte over Independence a week ago, and in their meeting with the Marlboro Bulldogs last season, Richard Bailey’s team rolled to a 51-13 in Pate Stadium.
But the visitors’ trip to McAlpine Stadium featured far more drama, as the Scots held off a furious late-game rally that included a Marlboro missed extra point to escape with the 21-20 victory.
Linebacker Jonathan Smith intercepted a Jacob Evers pass inside Scotland territory as time expired to improve the Scots’ record to 3-0, while Marlboro dropped to 1-1.
“You have to give credit to Marlboro, they obviously understood the significance of this game and they came out ready,” said Bailey after the game. “I take my hat off to those coaches and their players. It was one of those games where we did enough to win. I’m never going to be disappointed in a win, but we’re a lot better than that and we have to play better.”
The Scots, propelled by a 63-yard touchdown run by star tailback Zamir White with 6:12 remaining in the game, appeared well on their way to a comfortable victory. The score gave Scotland a 21-7 advantage, but the Bulldogs fought back and seemingly tied the contest at 21-all when Evers connected with Tylik Johnson from 58 yards out with 1:39 remaining.
The Bulldogs sent out kicker Hunter Tindal to convert the extra point, but he pushed it left of the uprights. Marlboro got the ball back with 52 seconds remaining at its own 20-yard line, but had no timeouts and Evers’ last-second heave from midfield was picked off by the future University of North Carolina linebacker.
“I really thought they were going to go for two, I was kind of happy they were kicking it,” Bailey said. “That kid barely made the first two, they were very low and (defensive back Trevon) Gibson has already blocked one. I think that kid rushed a little bit and pulled it and we’re just blessed that break went our way.”
White led all rushers with 222 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries, but did have a crucial late-game fumble that almost turned the tide of the game.
The sophomore picked up where he left off in the win over the Patriots with a 4-yard touchdown run out of the Wildcat formation. That score punctuated a 13-play drive on the Scots’ opening possession.
But that was the last time Scotland would find the end zone until the second half, as the Bulldogs’ defensive line regularly won the war in the trenches and stopped White for minimal gains.
“Marlboro did a good job, they showed us some things we hadn’t seen,” Bailey said. “They whipped us a bit up front, that’s a little disappointing and we’re going to have to play a lot better than that.”
The Bulldogs answered with a long drive of their own in the second quarter, and on 4th-and-goal, receiver Myron Williams lined up at quarterback and threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Anlonte Littles.
The teams went into the halftime locker room tied at 7 before Scotland took the lead again with 3:53 to go in the third quarter. White hurdled a defender and stiff-armed another to score from 23 yards out to give the Scots a 14-7 advantage.
Both teams traded punts the rest of the way until there was 6:12 remaining in the contest when White broke a handful of tackles on his way to the 63-yard score.
The Bulldogs answered two minutes later when Dylven Covington scored from a yard out with 3:14 left to close the gap to 21-14.
On Scotland’s following possession, White fumbled on the second play of the drive and Marlboro recovered with 2:22 remaining. Evers completed a 5-yard pass to Littles, then mishandled the snap on the next play before regathering the ball and throwing the 58-yard strike to Williams.
“It was kind of a freak play — at that point you just want to keep (the receivers) in front of you,” Bailey said.
The Bulldogs forced a Scotland punt, but never seriously threatened to take the lead when they got the ball back.
The Scots return to action next week in a home game against Jack Britt.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.