The Fighting Scots (11-0) fought through 110 penalty yards and a pair of turnovers to rout Harnett Central, using 441 rushing yards and three touchdowns through the air from quarterback Kwashaun Quick, to set up their first second-round game since 2007.
Quick finished the contest just 8-of-20 passing on the night, but threw for 195 yards and three scores to three different receivers in the blowout win.
Ahead 55-6 with 8:52 to go in the fourth quarter, Scotland lined up in victory formation and kneeled the ball on four straight downs deep in Trojan territory, sending a message to the rest of the state that the Fighting Scots are ready for whoever gets in their way this postseason.
“I thought it was a little sloppy,” Scotland head coach Chip Williams said. “I think we have a great group of athletes (and) I think they really go hard. We’ve got to improve our practices a little bit. I thought they (Harnett Central) played about as hard as they could. We’ve got to be more focused on this championship run if there’s to be a championship run. Every week, if we lose, we’re out. We have to really be focused. We’re trying to represent the SEC the best we can.”
Scotland’s stout defense limited the Trojans’ aerial attack to just 181 yards, while Scotland’s Jamel Johnson, Ronnie Moore and Dominique Green combined for three interceptions on the night.
“We knew coming in that we’d need to play a near perfect game,” Harnett Central head coach Patrick Turner said. “We didn’t play a near perfect game and in the first half we got behind early because of some of the mistakes we made. You can’t do that against a very good team…they’re (Scotland) going to go a long way. They did a great job. They out-played us and out-coached us.”
Turner, who earlier in the week questioned the quality of Scotland’s athletes, changed his tune after the 42-point loss.
“I think they’re good,” he said.
Scotland started the night’s scoring on their second possession of the game, needing just two plays after a Trojan punt to find the end zone.
Tailback Caison Murphy ran for 36 yards on his opening carry of the game to set Scotland up deep in Trojan territory. McRae capped off the 2-play drive with an 11-yard touchdown run up the heart of the Harnett Central defense for the Fighting Scots’ first score.
An Aaron Stevens’ extra-point gave Scotland a 7-0 lead after McRae's run with 4:48 left in the first.
The Fighting Scots’ sleepy offense awoke in the second period after a sluggish first quarter, scoring four touchdowns in the second quarter to push their lead to 35-6 at halftime.
Murphy crossed the goalline for his first of two touchdowns in the game with 11:13 left before halftime, scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run to end a 6-play, 97 yard drive that gave Scotland a 14-0 advantage.
Quick recorded back-to-back touchdowns for the Fighting Scots, reaching the end zone on a 1-yard quarterback keeper before finding wideout Sey’yan Moody for a 60-yard touchdown bomb over the middle of the field after Moore's interception.
Quick’s toss to Moody extended the Fighting Scots’ margin to 28-0 with 7:29 left in the first half, but Harnett Central quarterback Blake Ware answered Quick’s long score with a touchdown of his own, finding receiver Torin Walker for a 60-yard strike for the Trojans’ only score of the half. A botched extra-point by the Trojans cut Scotland’s lead to 28-6, but Quick found Marquis Pegues on a 25-yard touchdown throw on Scotland’s final drive of the half to lengthen Scotland’s lead to 29 points going into halftime.
After the break, Scotland’s offense blasted the Trojans for three more scores, two of which came in the third quarter.
Quick found Murphy for his third touchdown through the air on a 51-yard throw before McRae scored on another 1-yard run to extend Scotland’s lead to 49-6.
Scotland senior Kenny Miller scored his first career touchdown for the Fighting Scots with 9:50 to go in the fourth, using a 2-yard sweep to cross the goalline for Scotland’s eighth touchdown of the night, pushing Scotland ahead 55-6 after the Fighting Scots missed the ensuing extra-point.
After a 3-and-out by the Trojans, Scotland backup tailback Jalen McLean used a pair of runs to get Scotland into Harnett Central’s red zone, but instead of scoring, Scotland quarterback Storm Davis kneeled four straight times, turning the ball back over to the Trojans.
“Fifty-five (points) was enough,” Williams said.
Ware posted a late touchdown for Harnett Central with 1:01 left in the game on an 11-yard pass to Anfernee Hunter, but the late score wasn’t enough to keep Scotland from moving onto their next challenge with a 55-13 victory.
McRae ended the game with 120 rushing yards on 11 carries and two scores, while McLean added 120 rushing yards on just six carries in the second half.
Murphy tallied 90 yards and a touchdown on the ground, while also hauling in one catch for 51 yards and a score.
Quick finished the night with 95 rushing yards on four carries.
Dustin Underwood also finished with a sack for a loss of nine yards in the win.
Scotland held Harnett Central running back Malcom Graves to just 69 yards on 17 carries and an interception, while Ware ended the game 20-of-37 for 181 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Scotland will look to continue their road to a state title next Friday when the Fighting Scots host Southeast Guilford in a 7:30 p.m. contest at Pate Stadium.
“I thought our kids did extremely well maintaining their composure and focus,” Williams said. “We just got a little sloppy. We’re going to have to pick that up. Knowing the character of our kids, I have no doubts they be all over it by Monday.”
Southeast Guilford advanced to the second round of the state playoffs after defeating Northern Durham 30-12 on Nov. 4.