In an offensive shootout against visiting East Central 2-A Conference opponent East Duplin, it was special teams that made the difference in a 42-41 win for Midway on its Senior Night Friday, as two blocked kicks from senior Tyler Godwin and an extra point from junior Junior Acosta in the closing minutes accounted for the difference on the scoreboard.
“We knew coming into this one we had to dig deep and really settle down,” Godwin said. “We were coming up to conference competition and we knew there were going to be some big dogs in the fight. We just had to hit the weights hard, hit the film hard, practice just as hard as we can, bow our necks back and go get it. On Senior Night, it feels amazing. Honestly, this hasn’t happened for Midway in a while, so it’s a big blessing. And for me, in my last Senior Night with this group of guys, it’s just really special and I’m very honored and I wouldn’t want any other team to go into battle with.”
Midway coach Cory Barnes said the win resembled a close 28-24 win at East Duplin last season.
“It’s about like last year, a gutsy performance from our guys,” Barnes said. “Earning some more respect from this conference. They did a great job. Our defense had some holes in it tonight, but they came through when it mattered. Offense played great. Special teams came up with two blocked kicks at the end to win the game. That’s what sealed the game. That’s what gave us a chance to take the win instead of a tie and then to finish off the game with a block, that was a great three phases of the game in the fourth quarter.”
Junior Wyatt Holland completed 22-of-29 passes for 250 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 52 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Raiders (3-0, 1-0 ECC).
“We always talk about being calm and we had to make some adjustments with pass protection,” Barnes said. “But once that happened, he had some time in the pocket to make some throws and he did a great job delivering the football. He throws an accurate football and I’m glad he’s our quarterback.”
Holland completed passes to seven different receivers in the game. Thornton Baggett had five receptions for 78 yards and two touchdowns. Nate Smith had seven receptions for 69 yards. Lane Baggett had five receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown. Colin Avery caught a 14-yard touchdown. Jonathan Cooper had two receptions for 14 yards. Godwin and Trey Gregory each had a seven-yard reception.
“We’ve got a bunch of kids who can catch and run,” Barnes said. “And we’ve got a bunch of kids who do the right thing at the right time and run the right routes and they can make plays happen.”
Midway’s run game helped take some of the pressure off of Baggett, as Isaiah McClendon ran for 91 yards on 14 carries and Gregory ran for 53 yards on six carries.
“Big chunks (of yards) when we needed them,” Barnes said. “We’ve got some backs that do a great job finding grass. They do a good job of doing that and moving the chains.”
Acosta was a perfect 6-for-6 kicking extra points.
Godwin was a part of three key plays for Midway’s defense and special teams: recovering a fumble, forced by Cooper, and blocking an extra point and a field goal.
“Tyler Godwin is a great leader,” Barnes said. “He’s a great person. He’s a dang good football player. He brings our energy. He’s a physical specimen. And he’s a great kid to coach. He does what you ask him to do. He’s very coachable and he can make plays. And that’s what he did at the end for us.”
Senior Russell Gaby ran for 136 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, junior Nick Cavanaugh completed 5-of-7 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown and ran for another touchdown, senior Keyon McClarin ran for 110 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries and had three receptions for 48 yards and a touchdown and senior Brady Johnson ran for 80 yards and a touchdown on seven carries and had two receptions for 85 yards to lead the Panthers (0-3, 0-1).
Prior to the game, Midway honored 12 football seniors: Isaiah McClendon, Kentrell McLean, Jonathan Cooper, Tyler Godwin, Tim Maynor, Cole Bedard, Trey Gionet, Jordan Strickland, Jaylin Lewis, Lane Baggett, Colin Avery and Thornton Baggett.
After going three-and-out on its opening possession, Midway got the ball back when Cooper forced a fumble on East Duplin’s first play from scrimmage and it was recovered by Godwin. That led to Holland completing a 14-yard touchdown to Lane Baggett.
From there, the teams traded touchdowns until, with the score tied 35-35 early in the fourth, East Duplin forced a turnover on downs at its own one-yard-line, the first stop by the Panthers’ defense since Midway’s opening possession. The Panthers drove 99 yards, scoring on a two-yard Gaby run, but Godwin blocked the extra point attempt. East Duplin led 41-35 with 3:17 left in the fourth quarter.
Midway marched down the field on the ensuing drive, scoring on an 11-yard run from Holland. Acosta’s extra point gave the Raiders a 42-41 lead with 1:07 remaining in the fourth.
East Duplin drove down to Midway’s 20-yard-line on the ensuing drive and took a timeout to line up for a 37-yard field goal attempt with two seconds left. But Godwin once again blocked the kick as time expired.
“I knew that end was going to crash down and I had the speed to get up there and block it,” Godwin said. “It just took everything in me to get up there and step up for my team and make two big plays so we could pull this thing out.”
Midway travels to conference and Sampson County rival Clinton (3-0, 1-0) on Friday.
“We’re playing rival Clinton and I don’t think we’ve ever beat Clinton,” Barnes said. “Hopefully 3-0, we’ll go over there confident and compete.”