WINSTON SALEM – Fumbles, mental mistakes and missed two-point conversions were the main reasons that the Tarboro Vikings championship run came to an end on Saturday at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem on the campus of Wake Forest University. Not only did the Vikings make mistakes, but they came just one yard short of possibly being able to convert on their final possession and win, but the East Lincoln Mustangs held on and defeated the Vikings 24-20 to take the 2-A crown from Tarboro.
There was a lot of tears of sorrow and emotions were running high after the loss on the Vikings side, but nothing could possibly change that and everyone who was a part of the program knew that they had unachieved or better yet, had they?
After the game, Tarboro head coach Jeff Craddock was asked by his son, 10-year old Clay, why he wasn't upset about the loss. Coach Craddock told his son he was very upset about the loss and was very disappointed that his team couldn't pull out the victory.
Craddock knew he had gotten everything from his seniors that he was going to possibly get, because their careers were over but they had given him everything that they could give.
"I told them before the game that I had gotten everything from then that I had expected," Craddock said. "These guys are a part of a lasting legacy and yes – we fell short but they are not a class that anyone should say dropped the ball."
Coming into the game, the Vikings knew they had to cover the football tight and keep it wrapped up, because the Mustangs were a team that liked to strip the ball from their opponents. They were averaging over four forced turnovers a game coming into the title game.
The first half wasn't a very productive half for the Vikings, because they turned the ball over three times and East Lincoln capitalized on the mistakes by the Vikings.
"We didn't play a very good first half of football," Craddock said. "We haven't put the ball on the ground that many times in a long time but that is a credit to East Lincoln also. They are a good team and they are very strong upfront."
East Lincoln took the opening drive and drove down the field and scored on the Vikings to give them a 7-0 lead after Marquis Pharr scored on a 3-yard run. The extra point try was good also.
Tarboro tried to take the momentum back and marched down the field on the Mustangs as if they were not going to have it. On a second and 11 from the Mustangs 14-yard line, Viking quarterback Aaron Moore rolled to his left and found open space but was hit at the Mustangs 9-yard line and fumbled the ball and East Lincoln recovered.
That turnover didn't do any damage, except give the Mustangs the momentum right back. Then two possession later, the Mustangs capitalized again. This time with a 30-yard field goal by Corey Paterson to give the Mustangs a 10-0 lead.
Tarboro's offense would wake up and finally responded when Quentin Roberson found a hole through the left side of the offensive line as he sprinted 62 yards for the score. The two-point conversion failed and Tarboro trailed 10-6.
On the ensuing East Lincoln possession, they marched down the field with short passes and key runs by Pharr. Quarterback Garrett Young connected with Chaz Surratt on a 3-yard pass for the score and East Lincoln led 17-6 at the half.
Tarboro took the ensuing series and began marching down the field. They drove into Mustangs territory again. On a first and 10 from the East lIncoln 32-yard line, Moore connected with Antonio Winstead, who turned to run in for the score and was hit and forced to fumble to ball at the Mustangs 5-yard line. East Lincoln recovered the ball and ran out the clock in the first half.
Craddock was worried going into halftime trailing by 11, because Tarboro didn't have the swagger that they are used to carrying around with them.
"It really irritated me more then anything with us trailing at the half," Craddock said. "I did ask my guys to come together as one and play the best second half that they could play. I thought we did but it was just to big of a hole to overcome it."
Coming out of halftime, the Vikings responded to their coaches command. The grabbed the momentum from the Mustangs as if they were taking over the game and not giving up anything else.
It didn't take the Vikings long to get their swagger back after they were forced to punt on their opening possession of the third quarter. Marshall pinned the Mustangs back at the 1-yard line. After a incomplete pass, Young couldn't grab the high snap and the Vikings earned the safety and trailed 17-8.
Two Mustang possessions later, Tarboro killed their drive when Young dropped back in the pocket and threw an interception which was picked off by Julian Lee at the Tarboro 33-yard line and then he returned it 46 yards to the Mustangs 21-yard line. One play later, Roberson busted through the seam and scored to cut the East Lincoln lead to 17-14.
On the ensuing Mustangs drive, Young dropped back and threw another interception and this time Moore picked off the pass. On the second play of the Vikings ensuing drive, Travonne Marshall blasted up the middle untouched for 43-yards to give the Vikings their first and only lead of the game at 20-17 with 3:07 left in the third quarter.
With 10:38 left in the game, Tarboro was facing a fourth and one situation from the Mustangs 46-yard line and Craddock took his final timeout of the game. He chose to punt the ball away hoping to pin the Mustangs back by their endzone, but it back fired.
On the Mustangs ensuing drive, they marched down the field 80 yards and capped the drive off with a Young touchdown pass to Tyler Brock from 13-yards out to give the Mustangs the 24-20 lead.
The Vikings had one last chance and were marching down the field at ease as they had been the entire second half. Tarboro was facing a fourth and two from the East Lincoln 20-yard line and they decided to give the ball to Roberson. He cut to his left and then tried to find running room but was hit for a five yard loss and the Vikings hopes had falling apart.
After turning the ball over on downs, Craddock talked to his defense before the next series started and he told them they had nothing to hold their heads down about.
"I tried to make sure that they were as composed as they could be, because he knew that these were still kids," Craddock said. "I knew that after the loss that it was a tough pill to swallow. We should class though after the loss."
The loss ends a great run by the Vikings in the 2-A classification, because next season they will move down to 1-A because of the realignment.
Tarboro out gained the Mustangs offensively. The Vikings had 331 total yards. Roberson rushed for 202 yards on 25 carries, while Marshall had 64 yards on 8 carries.
The Mustangs defense shut down the Vikings misdirection plays and were also able to shut down Radja Bobbitt. He finished the game with 28 yards on 11 carries.
Tyquan Lewis was named defesnsive player of the game for Tarboro and Roberson received offensive player honors.