Midway’s varsity football team bounced back from its first loss of the season by winning a 24-20 thriller on Homecoming, scoring 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to rally past visiting East Central 2-A Conference foe East Duplin on Friday night.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Midway senior Deantae Byrd. “I love it.”
“All we’ve been preaching this week is fighting against adversity,” said Midway coach Cory Barnes. “Taking our first loss last week against Wallace, we were going to figure out what kind of team we were coming back this week. We started very slow. We were getting hit a little bit on defense and we weren’t moving the ball offensively. We were just sputtering on both sides of the ball in the first half. Second half we tried to make some adjustments and when we finally got the ball, we were going to try to tempo a little bit more. And it worked a little bit. We got down there and got a score. It’s a great job by the kids executing down the stretch. We’ve got a good football team. We’ve got kids who show up and fight. We showed a lot of heart tonight and that’s what I want us to be about: showing heart and fighting hard.”
Sophomore Wyatt Holland completed 11-of-19 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions, senior Jaden Covington had five receptions for 116 yards and senior Deantae Byrd ran for 83 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries and had 64 yards on one reception to lead the Raiders (8-1, 2-1 ECC).
Lane Baggett had two receptions for 14 yards. Cal Tyndall had two receptions for 11 yards and a touchdown. Thornton Baggett had a seven-yard reception. Cameron Barefoot had a six-yard reception.
The Panthers (4-5, 1-2) were led by junior Keyon McClarin, who ran for 184 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries, and junior Russell Gaby, who ran for 133 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries.
Midway trailed 24-13 going into the fourth quarter and things seemed to be going from bad to worse, as the Panthers were moving the ball on a drive that began late in the third on a turnover. But in the red zone, a trick play backfired on East Duplin, as a halfback pass was intercepted in the end zone by Tyndall, a play that would prove to be the turning point of the game.
“They had us beat, but he kind of ‘lollypopped’ it in there and I just recovered and picked it off,” Tyndall said. “I had it (that it could be the turning point) in the back of my head, but I didn’t want to be for sure, because I wanted to keep fighting.”
The Raiders took advantage of the turnover, engineering an 80-yard drive capped by a two-yard Byrd run. Holland threw to Thornton Baggett for the two-point conversion to cut the lead to just three with 7:14 left to play.
East Duplin moved into Midway territory on a drive that took over five minutes off of the clock. Midway took its last timeout of the game with the Panthers facing a fourth-and-five at the Midway 34-yard-line with 1:57 remaining. Coming out of the timeout, the Raiders stuffed a run play at the line of scrimmage to take over on downs with 1:51 left.
After initially picking up one first down, a sack and a holding penalty backed Midway up to its own 25, where the Raiders were facing fourth-and-30. Coming out of an East Duplin timeout, Holland completed a 10-yard pass to Lane Baggett, who lateraled the ball to Byrd, who not only picked up the first down, but moved the ball deep into East Duplin territory, at the 24-yard-line.
“I just wanted to score,” Byrd said. “That’s all I had in my mind, ‘Just score.’ And I got the yards and put the team in position to score and we did it.”
After an eight-yard completion to Lane Baggett and an offsides penalty against the Panthers, Holland found Tyndall in the end zone for an 11-yard score, with Junior Acosta kicking the extra point, to give Midway its first lead of the game with 16.7 seconds left.
“We do it in practice (two-minute drill) all the time and I just trust my guys,” Holland said. “I know when plays need to be made, our guys will make them.”
East Duplin took its last timeout of the game with less than one second remaining after reaching midfield. Coming out of the timeout, the Hail Mary pass was broken up, and nearly intercepted, by Tyndall at the goal line to end the game.
Midway is at home against conference foe Goldsboro (4-5, 1-2) for Senior Night on Friday.
“It really gives us motivation going on to the end of the season and the playoffs,” Tyndall said. “Believing in ourselves and that we can come back from something like that. This helps out a lot.”
“We know who we are as a team and what we can do now,” Holland said. “We’ve got to keep working.”