LAURINBURG — Scotland called on its defense in the waning moments of its third-round contest to setup a rematch with New Bern for the 4A East Region championship.
Tim McNeill intercepted a Phillip Bell pass with under a minute remaining to seal a 35-28 Fighting Scots’ victory over E.E. Smith.
The Golden Bulls began the final drive from their 10 with 2:23 left in the contest. They advanced the ball to the 31, when on second-and-6, Bell’s heave into the flat was picked off by McNeill, who returned it 12 yards. It was the second turnover in the contest for Bell. In the first half, Bell fumbled inside the red zone, which led to a Scotland touchdown.
The Golden Bulls (11-2) trailed 28-7 at halftime before rallying in the second half behind the running of Sulaiman Mustafaa. The senior rushed for a game-high 207 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. Dayvon Patterson had two touches for only two yards, but scored twice for E.E. Smith.
Jaylend Ratliffe led Scotland’s offensive attack with 164 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Ratliffe also passed for another 80 and found TraShawn Gregory for a 47-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Josh McPhatter rushed for 79 yards and two scores for the Fighting Scots (12-1).
“I told my guys that it would be like this in the playoffs,” Scotland coach Richard Bailey said to the Laurinburg Exchange. “You have seniors that are fighting for their football careers and lives out there. And the team we faced tonight was well-prepared and never gave up the entire game. We’re very fortunate to have won this game tonight.”
Scotland will travel to New Bern to face the Bears at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Last year, the Fighting Scots cruised to a 61-28 victory at home against the Bears, en route to their first state championship.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.