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East Forsyth rallies to win 4A football crown; Scotland’s Cinderella run ends

Scotland was poised to complete an improbable run through the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs, but then East Forsyth quarterback Ty’Shaun Lyles had other plans.

Lyles tossed a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Mizell Hall, the second of those a 14-yarder for the game-winner with 2 minutes, 45 seconds remaining, as the Eagles rallied for a 35-28 victory on Saturday at Duke University’s Wallace Wade Stadium.

It was the second 4A state title for East Forsyth (15-0) and its first since 1992.

“I’m happy for Kernersville,” said East Forsyth head coach Todd Willert, referring to the town where his school is located. “Sometimes we don’t get a lot of respect up there but these guys deserve it. The support in our town has been unbelievable and Eagle Nation was great this weekend.”

Scotland (9-6) took a 28-21 lead when Joseph McKoy scored on a 1-yard run with 10:14 remaining in the fourth quarter, the score culminating a drive that was initiated after a wild sequence in which East Forsyth’s Tsi Porter intercepted a pass near midfield only to fumble on the return and lose possession back to Scotland.

But East Forsyth was resolved, rallying around its sophomore quarterback Lyles, who played more like a senior in earning Most Valuable Player honors.

On the Eagles’ ensuing drive following the Scotland touchdown, they faced a third-and-11 at the Fighting Scots’ 22. On the play, Lyles was flushed right under extreme pressure before throwing a pass across his body to Hall, who hauled in the catch near the 10 before scampering into the end zone for the tying score with 6:03 remaining.

Scotland went three-and-out on its ensuing drive before East Forsyth’s game-winning touchdown.

Lyles finished 10-for-17 passing for 169 yards and three touchdowns.

“A year ago, I couldn’t have done this,” said Lyles of his fourth-quarter heroics. “It’s been (about) experience, film room, not taking days off.”

EAST FORSYTH’S DEFENSE DELIVERS

The Eagles’ path to the state title game was built upon a stout defense.

But in the first half, Scotland had its way offensively. The Fighting Scots piled up 189 yards of offense over the first two quarters, the final two yards coming on a Mandrell Johnson touchdown run with two seconds remaining that knotted the score at 21 heading into halftime.

The second half was a different story.

Scotland was limited to 97 yards of offense in the second half, twice going three-and-out, as the Eagles’ defense looked more like it had during much of its first 14 games.

“All season, we’ve been a second-half team on defense,” said senior safety Khalid Martin, one of the stalwarts of East Forsyth’s defensive unit. “You could also say it was the halftime speech, coach came in and got on our tails and told us what we needed to do, fix our errors and go out and make plays. … At the end of the day, we sucked it up … we just had to handle adversity and we came out on top.”

East Forsyth’s Ronald Jackson Jr. runs for a touchdown during the NCHSAA 4A State Championship game between Scotland and East Forsyth on Dec. 15, 2018. East Forsyth won by a score of 35-28. (Photo by Carin Goodell-Gosnell for EducationNC)

SCOTLAND’S RUN FALLS JUST SHORT

The Fighting Scots have been a perennial 4A title contender, winning the title in 2011 and losing title games in 2013 and last year, when they fell to Harding, 30-22.

However, after a regular season in which it went 5-5, many thought this postseason might produce an early exit for Scotland.

Instead, Scotland rattled off three straight playoff victories by six points or less before avenging a regular-season loss by routing Seventy-First, 28-0, to advance to Saturday’s title game. With just over 10 minutes to go, Scotland led by a touchdown before things unraveled late.

“Obviously, it’s not the final result we wanted but given the year we’ve had and the adversity we’ve overcome, I’m extremely proud of our football program,” Scotland coach Richard Bailey said. “We had to work really hard to score, and they seemed to score in three or four plays.”

The future should be bright for Scotland, who had more freshmen and sophomores starting than seniors. Among the seniors they will miss is McKoy, a two-way player who rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown while also holding his own in the secondary.

Scotland County’s Syheam McQueen runs for a first down during the NCHSAA 4A State Championship game between Scotland and East Forsyth on Dec. 15, 2018. East Forsyth won by a score of 35-28. (Photo by Carin Goodell-Gosnell for EducationNC)
Michael Mangan

Mike has lived in Raleigh since August, 2015. He previously resided in Binghamton, New York, where for nearly 20 years he worked as a sports writer at the Press & Sun-Bulletin, primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional sports as well. Most notably, he was selected by the National Wrestling Media Association as its Journalist of the Year in 2002.