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ER escapes with win over PG

Stephanie King

After undesirable field conditions forced a postponement, the fifth-seeded Eastern Randolph Wildcats hosted the twelfth-seeded Providence Grove Patriots on Saturday in the first round of the NCHSAA 2A State Football Playoffs. The Wildcats finished the regular season 9-2, while the Patriots finished 8-3.

Eastern Randolph received the ball to start the game wasted no time marching down the field and into the end zone. With 11:31 left in the first quarter, Cade Snotherly connected with Kaemen Marley for a 45-yard touchdown. Carter Moore added the extra point to give the Wildcats an early 7-0 lead. Providence Grove went to Caleb Rogers early to move the ball before a two-yard run from Drew Needham gave them a first down. A few plays later, PG went with a trick play that saw Luke Thomas connect with Cam Way who then sent a lateral pass to Rogers for a 48-yard pick-up to put the ball on the one-yard line. Needham capped off the drive with a one-yard touchdown run with 8:28 left in the quarter. Bryan Villagomez added the extra point to tie the game at 7-7.

The Wildcats continued to push the ball as they found the end zone quickly on their next offensive possession. Snotherly found Osiris Ross for a 53-yard touchdown pass with about seven minutes left in the first quarter. Moore’s extra point attempt was no good as the Wildcats led 13-7. Both teams would be forced to punt on fourth down during their next offensive possessions. When Providence Grove got the ball back they picked up back to back first downs before converting on fourth down for their third first down of the drive. Unfortunately, the Patriots fumbled the ball on the Wildcats’ 11-yard line and Jayln Patterson recovered the fumble returning it 62-yards to the 27-yard line. From there, Ross connected with JB Farrish for the 27-yard touchdown. Moore added the extra point to put the Wildcats in front 20-7. Providence Grove would end the first quarter on second down with seven to go on the 34-yard line. After one-quarter of play, Eastern Randolph was in control 20-7.

Providence Grove opened the second quarter with another trick play that resulted in a touchdown. Thomas sent the ball to Jacob Marcrum who then sent the lateral pass to Rogers for a 55-yard touchdown. The extra point was not good as the Patriots trailed 20-13 early in the second quarter. Eastern Randolph looked to find the end zone for the fourth time and had the ball within striking distance when they turned the ball over on downs. Providence Grove took over on their 24-yard line and worked the ball down the field before Rogers went five-yards into the end zone for the Patriots’ third touchdown of the afternoon. Villagomez added the extra point to tie the game at 20-20 with 3:26 left in the second quarter. On their next offensive possession, the Wildcats got down the field in a hurry as Snotherly connected with Tavis McAdoo and Hunter Henson. The Wildcats had two opportunities to score late in the quarter but one pass was knocked away and the other was almost interception. Eastern Randolph eventually turned the ball over on fourth down with six seconds left. Providence Grove would take a knee and let the clock run out to leave the game tied 20-20 at the half.

The Patriots came out of halftime ready to go as they took over the third quarter to take their first lead of the afternoon. Providence Grove took control just 90 seconds into the third quarter as Thomas found Marcrum for a 60-yard touchdown pass. The extra point gave the Patriots a 27-20 lead early in the third quarter. Providence Grove carried the momentum over on defense as they held the Wildcats scoreless on their next couple of possessions. The Wildcats struggled to get the ball out of their end zone late in the quarter when a missed handoff allowed Needham to recover and fall into the end zone for the Patriots’ second touchdown of the quarter. Providence Grove missed the extra point attempt but took a 33-20 lead over the Wildcats with 3:27 left in the quarter. That would be the Patriots’ final touchdown of the afternoon as Eastern Randolph came big the rest of the way. After a huge 50-yard pass from Marley to Ross, McAdoo scored on a five-yard run to cut the lead to six for the Wildcats. After three-quarters of play, Providence Grove held a 33-27 lead heading into the final quarter.

Defense was key for most of the fourth quarter as neither team could find the end zone early one. Providence Grove looked like they might steal the win as they got the clock down to 1:20 before being forced to punt on fourth down. That is where everything came unraveled for the Patriots. Providence Grove mishandled the punt which resulted in a turnover on their 16-yard line. From there, Marley scored to give the Wildcats a 34-33 lead over the Patriots. Moments later, Marley came away with an interception that he turned into a pick-six after a 49-yard return. Eastern Randolph took a 40-33 lead, but Providence Gove had enough time left to possibly tie the game and force overtime. This one ended heartbreakingly for the Patriots as Marley tipped away a game-tying pass in the end zone to ensure victory for the Wildcats. Eastern Randolph got the win 40-33 and will advance to the second round of the NCHSAA 2A State Football Playoffs. The Wildcats will travel to King next Friday to take on the fourth-seeded West Stokes Wildcats.

Marley finished with two touchdown receptions and a pick-six for the Wildcats, while Snotherly threw for 221 yards and two touchdowns. For the Patriots, Thomas finished with 170 passing yards and one touchdown, while Rogers picked up 162 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

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