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Greensboro rallies to beat John Essex 19-14

GREENSBORO–The fourth quarter is now officially Raider Time.

In a season filled with big late-game plays, Greensboro made several more to score a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns and stun the visiting John Essex Hornets 19-14. By coming through in the clutch again, Raiders finish their season with a 5-0 record in games decided by 10 points or less.

Essex looked to be in good shape, up 14-13 with only 1:46 left in the game and Greensboro starting a last-gasp drive on their own 20. But quarterback Ivory White and senior receiver Rashad Hobson made quick work of the long field, first hooking up for 15-yard completion to the 35. On the next play White floated a perfect pass down the right sideline for Hobson, who made the over-the-shoulder grab and sprinted all the way to the Essex 2-yard where he was corralled by the Hornets’ Suran Allen.

But Allen’s tackle only prolonged the inevitable as on first-and-goal Marvin Williams carried over right tackle and twisted his way in for the 19-14 lead. A White pass to Hobson was incomplete for the two-point conversion but the Raiders still led by five with only 1:04 left.

After taking over at their own 22, the Hornets’ Keniote Phillips hit Darnell Edwards for a quick five-yard gain and then Allen over the middle to take the ball near midfield. But Phillips’s next pass for Allen was picked off by Raider corner Mike Wiggins, and Greensboro was able to run out the clock.

With the win, Greensboro finishes 2005 with a winning season at 6-4. The Hornets fall to 6-3.

Greensboro had entered the fourth quarter trailing by a touchdown at 14-7 before White and Hobson started rolling. After moving from the 50 to the Essex 36, Greensboro got a critical conversion on fourth-and-2 when White carried around right end to the 29. A tackle-for-loss by Essex pushed the ball back to the 33, but White found Hobson with his first perfectly-thrown pass down the right side for the easy score.

With the score 14-13, Raider coach Michael Reynolds elected to try for the lead rather than kick the extra point. The decision backfired when White, on a similar play to the one that claimed the first down earlier in the drive, was stopped just inches shy of the goal line.

Buoyed by their big stop, the 1A Hornets got physical with the deeper Raiders and after taking over the ball with 9:37 remaining in the game, very nearly never gave it back. Chris Jones carried for three on third-and-two for a first down at the Hornet 31; back-to-back carries by Daryl Matthews got another first at the 45; and a sweep by Edwards on fourth-and-short set the Hornets up at the Raider 41 with the clock ticking.

Jones got the ball as far as the Hornet 25 before the Raiders forced third-and-long. Phillips narrowly overthrew an open Jones with a pass that would have iced the game with a first down, and the Raiders pulled down Edwards at the 20 to finally stop the drive. The Hornets had taken 7:51 off the clock, only for White and Hobson to complete the comeback anyway.

Essex had taken the lead with two first-quarter touchdowns. After Greensboro had scored a touchdown on their first possession of the game, Essex responded with a score of their own on their second snap from scrimmage. On second-and-eight Jones carried up the middle from his fullback position and broke into the secondary, making the last man miss and sprinting 78 yards for the touchdown.

The Robert Collier extra point was blocked, but Essex would take the lead before the end of the quarter anyway. A shovel pass from White to Bruce Brown good for 50 yards had helped put the Raiders in scoring position at the Essex 12, but White fumbled while rolling left and the Hornets returned the loose ball all the way to the Raider 24. Three plays later Edwards dashed in from nine yards out and then tacked on the two-point conversion for a 14-7 lead.

Greensboro had opened the coring with a methodical 14-play drive that took 7:27 off the first-quarter clock. Essex looked to have stopped the Raiders on fourth-and-goal from the 5 when a pass to Wiggins fell incomplete, but pass interference was called to give Greensboro a new set of downs. Williams capitalized, carrying in from the three and Dantrille Lee hit the extra point to put Greensboro up seven.

Both teams’ seasons will continue next week in the playoffs. John Essex will travel to Loachapoka to take on the team that eliminated them last year while Greensboro’s opponent would be determined by Friday night’s play.