Alexander Central 35
St Stephens 28
Two old rivals put on a show Friday night in Hickory. Alexander Central rallied to beat St Stephens in a game that had fans and players exhausted when it was over.
The Cougars trailed much of the night before scoring a touchdown with 1:14 remaining to win. Quarterback Lance Justice grunted his way into the end zone with the game winner from one yard on a night when both teams left it all on the field.
St Stephens took the opening kick and was stopped on three plays by the Cougars setting up a punt that gave AC the ball on their own 46 yard line. The Blue and Gold would took 6 plays to travel to to the pay window on a Justice one-yard run. Daniel Specht added the point after touchdown and it looked like this one would be the rout that most expected. St Stephens had other ideas.
The Tribe went 67 yards in 10 plays ending in quarterback Zane McPherson’s 5 yard run to tie the contest with 3:59 in the opening period.
St Stephens would intercept a Lance Justice pass setting up a 35-yard drive to take the lead when McPherson hit tight-end Noah Gscheidmeier from 12 yards making the score 14-7. Alexander Central would counter with a 60 yard drive in 10 plays. Cameron Lackey scored from 6 yards to tie the game at 14 with 1:14 left in the 1st half.
A short kick gave St Stephens the ball on their 49. They covered the distance and took a 21-14 half-time lead when McPherson found Zak McPherson from 27 yards with 13 seconds left in the 2nd quarter.
The second half would be back and forth too. Alexander Central marched 95 yards in 12 plays ending on Ryheem Craig’s 11 yard run to tie the score at 21.
St Stephens then put together a 16-play, 82 yard drive culminated by a 16 yard pass from McPherson to McLauchlin giving the inspired team from Catawba County a 28-21 lead with 7:41 remaining in the game.
Back came the Cougars ! Ryheem Craig would score from 10 yards out with 6:09 remaining in the game but the Cougars couldn’t pull even. A low snap on the conversion attempt kept the Cougars trailing by a point 28-27 with 6:09 left in the game.
Coach Wayne Hick’s Indians needed a drive but Alexander Central defense was determined to give their offense a chance to get the winning points. The Cougars forced a punt that was blocked by Blake Martin setting up the game winning drive.
Starting on the Indian 25, the Cougars used 6 plays highlighted by Justice plunging in from a yard. Justice hit Blake Martin for the two-point conversion making it 35-28 with 1:14 left in the game played on a muddy field.
Give credit where credit is due. St Stephens was a better them than what their record might show on their Homecoming night. They were able to drive into Cougar territory and have a chance to pull even aided by some mysterious clock stoppages by the officials. Peyton Payne put the finishing touches on the AC victory when he stepped in front of a pass in the end zone for an interception as the clocked ticked away.
The Cougars out gained St Stephens 344-294, all 344 yards on the ground. Ryheem Craig carried 11 times for 99 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Lance Justice scored twice on a night when he didn’t have a completed pass outside the two-point conversion in the 4th quarter ( conversion plays are not counted as official stats). Ibrahim Boston led the defense with 11 tackles, Ryheem Craig collected 9.
Zane McPherson dazzled with his scrambling and passing for the Indians. He went 16-24 for 183 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. He scored a rushing touchdown as well.
The win gives the Cougars their 10th straight win over the Spring Road Tribe. They’re 18-2 in the series that might be over as St Stephens will move to another conference this Autumn as part of league realignment.
Alexander Central (3-2) wins their 3rd straight after an 0-2 COVID plagued start to the season. They’ll come home for a Thursday night encounter with Hickory on April 1st. St Stephens falls to 1-4.
Watauga 26 Mc Dowell 12
South Caldwell 44 Hickory 14
Asheville 48 Freedom 6
West Rowan 44 North Iredell 0
Vance 35 Lake Norman 16
Hopewell 20 Mooresville 14
Hibriten 49 East Burke 0
Bunker Hill 44 West Iredell 0
Draughn 25 Foard 17
West Caldwell 24 Patton 14
Maiden 46 East Lincoln 38
Newton Conover 27 North Lincoln 16
West Lincoln 27 Bandys 7
Wilkes Central 44 Alleghany 6 Game called at half due to light-failure
Elkin 36 West Wilkes 0
Ashe County 41 East Wilkes 0
Starmount 33 North Wilkes 0
Burns 49 East Gaston 6
South Iredell 32 East Rowan 15
Kings Mountain 36 Shelby 35
Crest 29 North Gaston 0
Carson at Statesville