LAURINBURG — Scotland coach Richard Bailey said he didn’t have a good feeling leading up to his team’s first-round playoff game against Davie.
The Scots were coming off an emotional win over Richmond Senior the week before, and multiple starters were injured in the physical rivalry battle.
Several didn’t suit up against the War Eagles, including star running back Zamir White, and Davie nearly kicked down that door of opportunity at Pate Stadium Friday.
The War Eagles set the tone early with a touchdown on their first drive and held leads in the second and third quarter before Scotland went on a 17-0 run in the second half to spoil Davie’s upset bid, 44-36.
“We’re very fortunate, hat goes off to Davie,” Bailey said. “They did a great job with their game plan and their kids played hard. They came in here and they fought for their lives and they should be commended.”
Quarterback Dashaun Ferguson scored five total touchdowns, four coming in the first half, to help the second-seeded Scots fight off the No. 15 War Eagles. Scotland advances to the second round of the 4A West Region with the win where they will play No. 7 North Davidson. The Knights defeated No. 10 Southeast Guilford 35-24 to move on to face the Scots in Pate Stadium next Friday at 7:30 p.m.
It didn’t come easy for the Scots, who trailed three different times in the game and faced a deficit as large as eight in the second quarter.
Scotland opened the game with a touchdown on its first drive when Dashaun Ferguson plunged into the end zone for a 1-yard score. The ensuing extra point was blocked, however.
But Davie quickly responded, as quarterback Chris Reynolds picked up 60 yards on the ground on the War Eagles’ first play from scrimmage. Peyton Hampton capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to give Davie its first lead, 8-6.
The Scots regained the advantage late in the first quarter when Ferguson threw a screen pass to Alston Smith, who reeled in the catch and weaved his way through traffic for an 11-yard touchdown.
The Scotland defense forced its first punt on Davie’s next possession, but the offense was unable to do anything with it when they got the ball back, going three-and-out.
Reynolds, who used his legs to elude the Scots’ defensive lineman and linebackers for much of the night, ran for a 17-yard touchdown on the War Eagles’ next series.
Without White to rely on for short-yardage plays, Scotland turned the ball over on downs after failing to convert a fourth down. Davie followed with another score, as Reynolds ran it in for a 5-yard touchdown with 8:51 in the second quarter to give the War Eagles a 21-13 lead.
“It’s such a trap game coming off of Richmond County and we’re beat up,” Bailey said. “They’re an excellent offensive football team and their quarterback is a special kid.”
The tension in Pate Stadium heightened tenfold as fans grew restless in their seats, but the Scotland offense was able to calm them, if only for a moment, when Ferguson capped another scoring drive with a 9-yard run.
Then, after forcing a Davie punt, the Scots got the ball back and put together its fourth scoring drive of the half just before the break. They converted a fourth-and-1 at the War Eagles’ 28-yard line, then Ferguson broke the plane on a 13-yard touchdown run to put Scotland on top 27-21 at halftime.
At the half, the senior signal caller had 18 carries for 100 yards and three touchdowns to compliment going 9-for-13 for 94 yards and one touchdown through the air. He finished with 31 carries for 143 yards and four scores in addition to completing 13 of 20 passes for 160 yards and the lone touchdown.
“Fergie was a champion tonight, (he) played hard and got a lot of hard yards for us,” Bailey said.
Davie quickly showed the first 24 minutes was no fluke, however, reaching the end zone in four plays to open the second half. Reynolds tossed a 52-yard touchdown to Cooper Wall to give the War Eagles a 28-27 advantage.
Reynolds surpassed 250 passing yards and 100 rushing yards in the game. He was 19 of 30 for 261 yards and two touchdowns and one interception to go along with 17 rushes for 115 yards and two more scores.
“Our guys believe in each other and they try to play for each other and they didn’t want to travel down here just to lay an egg,” said Davie coach Holman DeVore. “They really came to play tonight.”
That was the last time Davie scored in the contest until the final minute of the fourth quarter, though, as Scotland slowly began to take control of the game. The Scots turned the ball over on downs in War Eagle territory, but forced Davie to go three-and-out on their next series and blocked the punt.
Still, Scotland was unable to turn that play into six points, instead settling for a 27-yard field goal. Grant Ciarrocca knocked it through to make it 30-28 Scotland with 1:48 left in the third quarter.
On the War Eagles’ next series, Scotland’s defense came up big, stopping Reynolds short of the first down on a fourth-and-one play at Davie’s 33-yard line. The Scots took advantage of the prime field position, as running back Tyquan McNealy ran untouched into the end zone from 15 yards out to begin the fourth quarter.
Down by nine points, Davie appeared to close the gap to three when Reynolds threw a perfect strike to Ellis for a touchdown. But the play was called back due to holding, and after an unnecessary roughness penalty, the War Eagles were moved out of field goal range and had to punt.
“(Ellis) caught the football and made a heck of a play, and I look over and see yellow in the grass,” DeVore said.
Scotland got the ball back and iced the win when Ferguson scored his fifth touchdown of the night on a 4-yard run with 4:32 remaining in the game.
The War Eagles moved the ball down the field one final time as Reynolds connected with Ellis for an 18-yard touchdown with 1:51 left. Davie got the two-point conversion as well, but the War Eagles were unable to recover the onside kick that followed.
Davie was down to its final timeout and had one final chance to get the ball back, but Scotland picked up a first down on its drive to ice the game.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.