Knights' season ends in overtime

Croatan 24 Currituck 21

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Currituck quarterback Jayden Calloway (right) scored three touchdowns against Croatan, Friday, November 16, 2018 at Croatan High School


By Rick Scoppe
Jacksonville Daily News

Sunday, November 18, 2018

BROAD CREEK — What started as an historical night for the Croatan football program was capped by a memorable finish.

All of which means a team that started the season 0-4 under a new head coach is in the second round of the NCHSAA 2-AA playoffs.

And the Cougars did it after rallying from a 14-point deficit early in the second half in their first home playoff game since the school opened in 1998.

In the end, a goal-line stand after David Wallis kicked a 23-yard field goal lifted the Cougars to a 24-21 overtime victory Friday night.

“Very special,” Wallis said. “It’s a great feeling. I definitely didn’t win the game. That was all the defense. They held them up on the 2-yard line. That’s crazy. The defense won us the game.

Croatan (6-5), seeded No. 7, will travel to No. 2 SouthWest Edgecombe (10-2) this Friday. SouthWest Edgecombe beat No. 15 Washington 50-21.

Currituck, seeded No. 10, finished 7-5.

The Cougars had a chance to win it in regulation, but Wallis’ 28-yard field goal with 1:00 left was wide right.

Next up: OT.

Croatan got the ball first at the 10-yard line, but after making only 5 yards on three downs coach Andrew Gurley opted for the field goal.

“If we’d have gotten inside the 2, I’d have probably done for it,” he said. “David’s made big kicks before. I felt like he could do it.”

Then it was Currituck’s turn. Three plays netted 9 yards. Then on fourth down quarterback Jayden Calloway, who rushed for 177 yards and three touchdowns, tried to leap over the pile and then extended the ball toward the goal line.

But junior linebacker Walker Gladwell smacked the ball out of Calloway’s hands — and Croatan had survived to advance after only the second playoff win in school history.

“I just saw him reaching over the goal line with the ball loosely hanging out and I just smacked the mess out of it and it fell right in a player’s hand. It was amazing,” Gladwell said. “He was not in — no way, no way.”

Added Gurley: “What a last play to end it. That was crazy.”

Had Croatan lost, the Cougars would have bemoaned their lost scoring chances on a cold night along the coast.

On third-and-6 at the Currituck 21-yard line, Wallis threw an interception.

On the next series late in the half Wallis lost a fumble on second-and-6 at the Currituck 44.

And then with the score tied 21-21, the Cougars fumbled the ball away on third-and-8 at the Currituck 33 on a backward pass by Lewis Reddick, who otherwise had a night to remember.

Reddick, a senior, rushed for 144 yards on 33 carries, including a 3-yard touchdown run to cap a 16-play, 59-yard drive for the Cougars’ first score.

“I think that gave us a little life,” Gurley said.

After Dustin Taylor’s fumble recovery gave the Cougars the ball at the Currituck 26, it took Croatan only three plays to tie it at 14-14 on Major Hawkins 15-yard TD toss to Andrew Mendolia with 1:47 left in the third quarter.

But Currituck answered, tying it on a 12-yard run by Calloway.

“That kid’s a tough player,” Gurley said. “Hats off to Currituck, they’re a hard-nosed football team.”

Croatan responded immediately, with Wallis returning the ensuing kickoff 82 yards, initially sweeping past his own bench before making a diagonal route across the field and sprinting into the end zone to make 21-21 with 11:39 to go regulation.

“Walker made a perfect block, wide open hole and I took off when I saw a lane,” Wallis said. “Right when I caught it I had a mindset I was going to score. I had to tie the game.”

Added Gurley: “I said on the headset, ‘Man, it would be big if we could run one back here.’”

Afterward, the Cougars celebrated with joy and perhaps a little hope as well.

“I feel like it will give a lot of people faith in us finally,” Gladwell said. “It’s something we lack out at Croatan. I definitely think it carries over. We’ve got some momentum.”

Traveon Powell led the Knights with 99 rushing yards, while Christian Spencer had two catches for 50 yards.

It was a turnaround season for Currituck, which finished third in the Northeastern Coastal Conference and clinched its first playoff berth since the 2013 season.