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Linden rides late rally to win

Senior receiver Larente Taylor cemented his legacy in Linden High School football lore with three catches Friday night – in a span of about two minutes.

With less than two minutes left to play – and the Patriots trailing 6-0 – Taylor hauled down a 45-yard bomb from Anthony Robinson to prolong the Patriots’ final drive. On the next play, he reeled in a 12-yard touchdown strike to give the Patriots their first lead of the game. And with time winding down – and the Bulldogs knocking on the redzone – he stepped in front of Bulldog quarterback Josh Taylor’s pass, sealing Linden’s 7-6 win and preserving the Patriots’ undefeated season.

“It doesn’t get much tighter than that,” Linden coach Andro Williams said of his team, who led for only 57 seconds in the game. “We knew we were getting a good football team (in Winterboro) and we got one.”

The stat line of Friday night’s game doesn’t reflect what turned out to be an epic slugfest between the two teams. The Bulldogs managed only 98 yards offense in the game. By comparison, Linden tailback Kendarius Fritts tallied 151 yards by himself.

However, the Patriots were plagued by a relentless Winterboro defense that was perfectly willing to bend but refused to break.

“We could move the ball just fine,” Williams said. “We got the yardage, we just couldn’t finish the drives. We just didn’t score.”

Only hanging 7 points on the scoreboard represents a departure from what has become the norm for Linden, with an average margin of victory exceeding 35 points over the previous 11 games.

“We needed a game like this,” Williams said. “We were getting to used to winning big. This is a wakeup call. It only gets tougher from here.”

Linden’s first two drives stopped abruptly on turnovers and the first quarter ended at a 0-0 tie. Winterboro took a 6-0 lead with two minutes left to play in the half.

The Bulldog defense stopped Fritts on the 1-yardline as time expired in the half as Linden mounted its deepest drive of the night.

The Bulldogs opened the half with an onside kick, which they recovered in Patriot territory, but the Linden defense forced them to punt. The teams would exchange punts the rest of the third quarter and most of the fourth.

A drive that would have put the game away for the Bulldogs stalled with just more than two minutes left to play. A textbook punt followed by a fortuitous roll put the Patriots on their own 1 yard line, giving the Patriots 99 yards to go and about two minutes to get there.

Fritts opened the drive by shoving defenders out of his way for a 30-yard gain. He took the next handoff 2 yards.

Robinson looked deep on the next play and was trying to connect with Terris Lewis when the batted ball landed in the hands of Taylor for a 45-yard completion. On the next play, Taylor hit pay dirt on a 12 yard TD toss from Robinson to tie the game at 6-all with 57 seconds left to play.

Gerald Bruno’s point after kick sailed wide right but a penalty called on the Bulldogs gave Linden another chance to take the lead. Bruno’s next try was right down the middle, giving the Patriots their first lead of the game and their twelfth win of the year.

Robinson finished the night with 88 yards passing. Taylor caught four balls for 75 yards and a score. Bruno caught one pass for 12 yards.

Linden will host Brantley Friday night in the quarter-finals round of the Class 1A playoffs.