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Soaring to Raleigh

High School Football | Northeastern defeats Southwest Onslow, claims 2A East Regional championship | w/Video

Northeastern 47 Southwest Onslow 36

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The Northeastern football team poses with the NCHSAA 2A East Regional championship trophy after defeating Southwest Onslow in the football regional final 47-36, Friday, December 7, 2018 at Northeastern High School.

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By Malcolm Shields
Sports Editor

Sunday, December 9, 2018

As the final seconds ticked away, Northeastern football players starting chanting along with a packed home sideline at the Northeastern Athletic Complex.

Northeastern head coach Antonio Moore hugged his assistant coaches and players.

After recent years of heartbreak in the state playoffs, Northeastern punched its ticket back to the state championship game.

Northeastern relied on a nearly unstoppable offensive attack with timely defensive plays to defeat Southwest Onslow 47-36 Friday night in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Class 2A East Regional final.

The Eagles (14-0), the No. 1 seed in the region, secured their second regional title in eight seasons and cliched a spot in the 2A state championship game Saturday, Dec. 15 at Carter-Finley Stadium on the campus of North Carolina State University at 11 a.m.

Northeastern will face the 2A West Regional champion Reidsville.

NHS will appear in its first state championship game since the 2010 season.

Moore said that returning to the state championship game is a credit to the coaches, the kids and the community.

Early in the first quarter, the Eagles were in a tight spot.

After forcing Southwest Onslow (12-3) to punt on its opening possession, NHS was backed up inside its own 10-yard line.

Two plays later, an Onslow defender tackled Jerron Hinton in the end zone for a safety to give Onslow a 2-0 lead.

Following the free kick by NHS to Onslow, the Stallions’ BJ Jordan ran up the middle of the Eagles defense for a 43-yard touchdown.

After the missed point after touchdown, Southwest Onslow led 8-0.

“We told these kids that in life, adversity is going to strike,” Moore said.

The Eagles responded with Traveon Freshwater and the running game.

Freshwater got the Eagles on the scoreboard on a 21-yard touchdown run.

NHS faced a fourth-and-8 on the Onslow 20-yard line.

Northeastern quarterback Aaron Harris connected with Holden Hodge for an 11-yard gain and a first down.

That set up Freshwater’s second rushing score from 5-yards out to give NHS a 14-8 lead.

Onslow established success running the ball inside.

The Stallions, the region’s sixth seed, re-took a 15-14 lead late in the second on a Jordan 7-yard TD run.

The Eagles went to the air and mounted a late half drive.

Faced with another fourth down, NHS went to the air as Harris connected with Lewis for a 13-yard gain on fourth-and-7.

Harris then found Jamari Ishman in the right corner of the end zone between multiple defenders for an 18-yard touchdown pass to give NHS a 20-15 lead at halftime.

The Eagles appeared primed to put the game away for good midway in the third.

Following a Quashawn Thomas scoring run, Northeastern recovered a Jordan fumble on Onslow’s next offensive possession.

On the next play, Harris ran from 17-yards out for a touchdown to increase NHS’ lead to 34-15 with six minutes to go in the third.

In a span of nearly two minutes, Onslow responded with 14 points.

The first score was set up by a Jordan 61-yard run inside the NHS 10.

He would cap the drive on a touchdown run.

On the ensuing kickoff, Northeastern did not field the Onslow pooch kick as the Stallions recovered the ball in Northeastern territory.

Onslow quarterback Dharyus Thomas connected with a wide-open receiver for a 33-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to 34-29.

NHS moved the ball to midfield late in the third and facing a third-and-16, the Eagles went to a trick play as Lewis took a hand off in the backfield and threw to an open Harris.

The quarterback broke free and scored from 50 yards to give NHS a 41-29 advantage.

Harris finished with over 150 yards passing with a touchdown to go with more than 110 rushing yards, two rushing scores with a receiving touchdown.

“I came into the game telling myself that I am going to give everything I got,” Harris said. “Not just for myself, but for my team and my coaches.”

The Stallions mounted another scoring drive as they would score from a yard out to cut the deficit to 41-36 with 9:29 in the fourth quarter.

In a game filled with big plays, the Eagles got one on special teams as Tyquan Mercer returned the ensuing kickoff inside the Onslow 10-yard line.

Harris would capped the drive on a 3-yard touchdown run to increase the lead to 47-36.

Northeastern got the needed stop in the fourth quarter as Lewis intercepted a Thomas pass on the Northeastern sideline with 7:43 to go.

Lewis, who came to Northeastern from Nansemond River in Suffolk, Virginia, made multiple big plays for the Eagles.

“Coming in from a different school as a senior is not easy to gel with the kids you haven’t been around,” Moore said. “but he got comfortable.”

“It’s been overwhelming,” Lewis added. “As soon as I came in, they treated me just like one of the guys. Just like family. It has been an unbelievable experience.”

The Stallions returned the favor as they recovered a NHS fumble with six minutes to go.

Still nursing a two-score lead, NHS got its final stop of the game on fourth-and-6 at the NHS 34 as Thomas’ pass was incomplete.

“I thought our defense played well when it needed to,” Moore said.

The Eagles savored the moment after the game.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Lewis said. “We have been putting in the work all year. It finally paid off.”

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