ROCKINGHAM — Late cheers from the home crowd quickly turned into looks of disbelief Friday night.
After the Raiders had given up a touchdown to North Mecklenburg’s senior tailback Emanuel Wilson, they took over on their own 29-yard line — trailing by four points — and were determined to reclaim the lead.
The yardage gained on their first three plays from scrimmage weren’t enough to move the chains, but on fourth-and-one, senior tailback Dante Miller found a hole for what most believed to be a first down.
Before Miller was able to hit the the ground, though, the ball came out and North Mecklenburg recovered the fumble with only 1:09 left in the game. And while Miller tried to process what had just transpired, the visiting team’s defense ran off the field to make way for its offensive unit.
After three straight kneels from junior quarterback Aaron Scott, the No. 9 Vikings watched the final seconds tick off the clock and then began celebrating their 27-23 win over No. 8 Richmond in the first round of the NCHSAA 4AA State Playoffs.
“We obviously don’t expect that kind of thing,” head coach Bryan Till said. “Dante hasn’t fumbled all year, with the exception of that one strip (vs. Seventy-First), and his forward progress stopped on that.
“It was just kind of a perfect storm, the way things happened with the turnovers and everything else.”
Richmond (7-5) finished the night with four turnovers, the most it had coughed the ball up in a game this season.
Senior Kaleb Douglas lost a fumble in the first quarter, the Vikings jumped on the ball after their punt hit senior safety Malik Flowers’ helmet in the second quarter, and then freshman quarterback Caleb Hood threw an interception on the next possesion.
Despite those three first-half giveaways, Richmond only trailed by four at halftime thanks to a 31-yard field goal from senior kicker Victor Lucero and its defense only giving up one score — a three-yard touchdown run from Wilson.
The Raiders were forced to punt on their first two drives of the second half but junior Kyle Goodwin turned that into a positive, as his second punt rolled down to the one-yard line — which led to the home team’s first touchdown of the night.
Senior wideout Clint Snipes blocked the Vikings’ punt after a three-and-out and senior defensive end Delon Wall recovered the ball in the end zone, giving the Raiders a 10-7 lead.
North Meck (9-4) went ahead on the scoreboard after Scott’s 12-yard naked bootleg with 3:37 left in the quarter, but Raider junior wide receiver Malik Stanback quickly answered by taking the ensuing kickoff 80 yards to the house.
Both teams would continue the back and forth in the final period, with Wilson breaking free for a 53-yard touchdown run and then Hood finding Miller on fourth down for a five-yard touchdown pass, but North Meck got the last laugh with Wilson’s final score and the late fumble recovery.
“The biggest thing is, we didn’t make plays when we had the chance to make plays. We had two times we could’ve made stops and saved the game for us but we didn’t,” Till said. “And they were really bringing it, really flying to the ball well on defense. We haven’t seen a defense that fast in the last several weeks.”
Hood completed nine of 20 passes for 69 yards and a touchdown, and he also ran the ball nine times for 54 yards. Miller tallied 70 yards on 16 carries and sophomore running back Jaheim Covington picked up five yards on two carries. Junior Bobby Terry was the leading receiver with three receptions for 38 yards.
For North Meck, Wilson ended the night with 271 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries. Scott completed seven passes for 44 yards and ran for 63 yards on 13 carries.
“They (North Meck) were really energetic, they brought a lot of energy. And I think that’s something we’ve got to learn from,” Till added. “Once you start the playoffs, you’ve got to be ready to go.”
Richmond’s early exit was the first time since 2011 that the program had been bounced out of the state playoffs in the first round. The Raiders say goodbye to more than 30 seniors.
“We love these kids. This family’s not over because the season is over,” Till added.
Richmond — 1Q 6:52, Victor Lucero 31-yard field goal
North Meck — 2Q 2:36, Emanuel Wilson 3-yard run (PAT good)
Richmond — 3Q 6:44, Delon Wall recovers fumble in end zone (PAT good)
North Meck — 3Q 3:37, Aaron Scott 12-yard run (PAT blocked)
Richmond — 3Q 3:24, Malik Stanback 80-yard kick return (PAT blocked)
North Meck — 4Q 11:06, Emanuel Wilson 53-yard run (PAT good)
Richmond — 4Q 5:23, Caleb Hood 5-yard pass to Dante Miller (PAT good)
North Meck — 4Q 1:48, Emanuel Wilson 19-yard run (PAT good)
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. at 910-817-2673 and follow the sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.