The Northeast Lauderdale football team's losing streak is over.
The Trojans snapped the skid at three games with an important district win over Newton County, 38-27, on Friday night. The win moves them to even in Region 5-4A (3-4, 1-1) while the Cougars drop to 0-2 (4-3 overall).
“It was a big district win,” Northeast head coach Curt Blackburn said. “If my calculations are right, it puts us right in the middle of the hunt. It feels great. I've told them to believe, keep fighting and all the way up to now was preseason.”
Blackburn said he stuck to his game plan and used his offensive line to its full potential, which Newton County felt.
“We got out butts kicked,” Newton County head coach Jackie Williamson said. “We got beat up front, no doubt. Their offensive line whooped our defensive line and [on] offense we didn't finish some drives.”
The line helped the Trojans fight back from an early first quarter deficit before taking a one-point lead just before halftime and holding on to it from there.
“[The offensive line] stepped up and they did a great job night,” Blackburn said. “We ran ball, ran the clock, kept their offense off the field – that was pretty big. Our offense stay on and I feel like we had a pretty big night.”
The end result looked grim on the opening kickoff as the Cougars' De'Andre Wansley returned it for an 85-yard touchdown with three seconds elapsed on the clock for a quick 8-0 lead.
“I knew they had big play capabilities even though their Dandy Dozen [Jamoral Graham] was out,” Blackburn said. “They've got athletes around him that make him good … I didn't expect the kickoff return for touchdown, but I knew they were going to make big plays.”
Newton County was down Graham, offensive linemen Jacob Mott, and kicker Bryden Reed, but Blackburn said Northeast prepared as if a healthy Cougar team was coming at them.
Earlier in the week, Williamson said he hoped that someone, or multiple guys, would step up in Graham's absence which happened, despite the loss. Wansley and his brother, DeRyan Wansley, both had big nights for Newton County, receiving for 117 and 142 yards respectively.
The Cougars scored mostly on big plays even after the kickoff return before the Trojans stormed back. Seventeen seconds into the second quarter, Newton County's Jacob Edwards connected with Xavier Sharkey for a 39-yard play and 14-3 lead.
On the following drive, Northeast put itself back in the ball game with its own passing touchdown. Troy Neely found Robert Collins for a 28-yard score to cut the lead, 14-10, with 9:47 left before halftime.
Except Newton County unleashed its longest play of the game as DeRyan Wansley took a short pass from Edwards for an 84-yard touchdown two plays later. The two-play drive lasted 24 seconds for a 22-10 lead.
“The big play was our nemesis,” Blackburn said. “I don't think they had a drive where they put more eight, 10 plays together. Every play the scored was one, two, three plays, 60 years in the end zone.”
The two-score lead was erased in the final 2:30 of the first half as Northeast capitalized first on its own successful long drive to make it a six-point game, 22-16.
On a third-and-three at the Trojan 44, and just over a minute left on the clock, Edwards was sacked for an 8-yard loss forcing the Cougars to punt the ball. Northeast returned the punt to the Cougar 42 and on the first snap Willie Campbell broke loose from a tackle to run straight up the middle for a 58-yard touchdown. Mikey Myers kicked the extra point to give the Trojans a one-point lead, 23-22, with 1:00 on the clock.
“We did not handle them very well up front,” Williamson said. “Our defense front was smaller, of course, and got beat. They were more physical than us upfront and that's the way it goes sometimes.”
Despite an aggressive effort from the Cougars on the following drive, in which Edwards was four-for-five for 49 yards, Northeast took the lead into halftime.
The flip flopping scores continued early in the third quarter, but the Trojans lengthened their lead on the first drive of the second half.
Stevie Sanders cut through a hole and down the middle of the field for a 41-yard touchdown with 9:05 on the clock.
Not even a full minute later, the Cougars negated the score with yet another big play.
DeRyan Wansley received a short pass and zipped it down the right sideline for a 60-yard run. The two-point conversion would have knotted the game at 30-all, but Edwards was brought down near the 2-yard line on the quarterback keeper play with 8:02 on the clock, 30-28.
Halfway through the fourth quarter, Neely intercepted an Edwards pass to set up a scoring drive for the Trojans on the Cougar 21-yard line. Five plays later, Northeast had some breathing room on the scoreboard after an 10-yard run by LaDale Crockell, 38-27.
Northeast was led by Sanders' 148 rushing yards. Neely finished the night three-for-six for 54 yards and rushed 52 yards. Edwards led the Cougars with 328 passing yards.
Next week, Northeast travels to Forrest County. Newton County continues a three-game road trip at Northeast Jones.
The Northeast Lauderdale football team's losing streak is over.
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