NEW BERN — In a rematch of last season’s 4A East Region championship contest, New Bern gained a bit of revenge.
The Bears forced two Scotland fumbles, one at their own 1-yard line, en route to a 23-6 victory at Caruso-Coates Stadium. Last season, the Fighting Scots posted a 61-28 victory on the way to their first 4A state title.
“You simply can’t make the mistakes that we made against a great team like New Bern,” Scotland coach Richard Bailey said to the Laurinburg Exchange. “We really couldn’t get out of our own way.”
New Bern opened the scoring in the first quarter on Josh Taylor’s 53-yard touchdown run. The Bears tacked on a safety in the opening moments of the second quarter when Scotland quarterback Jaylend Ratliffe was wrapped up in the end zone.
The Fighting Scots (12-2) broke into the scoring column on their next possession with a quick-strike, two-play, 76-yard scoring drive. Running back Josh McPhatter broke free for a 43-yard run and Ratliffe capped the drive with a 33-yard scamper to trim the deficit to 9-6 at halftime.
Following intermission, Taylor was the key player to push the Bears into their fifth state championship contest since 2002. Taylor scored on a 34-yard run to extend the New Bern advantage to 16-6.
The score remained the same until midway through the final period when the Fighting Scots appeared set to cut into the lead. Scotland marched deep into New Bern territory and had a first-and-goal inside the 5. McPhatter took a handoff and was barreling towards the end zone when he lost the ball.
The fumble recovery by the Bears set up a 3-yard game-clinching touchdown run by Cody Purdie, which capped a 14-play, 99-yard drive.
“These guys have worked hard and done everything we’ve asked them to do,” New Bern coach Bobby Curlings said to the Sun Journal. “I’m so happy for them to get a chance to go play in the state championship.”
New Bern will face Porter Ridge in Friday’s 4A title tilt at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.