A-G wins before the buzzer
By JORDAN ANDERS
The Daily Reflector
Friday, October 13, 2017
LITTLEFIELD — For the second straight week, needing a touchdown to win in the late stages, Ayden-Grifton went to the air.
Quarterback Blake McLawhorn tossed a 28-yard touchdown pass to Malik Anthony on fourth-and-4 with just over a minute remaining against Kinston on Friday night to give the Chargers another late come-from-behind victory, topping the previously unbeaten Vikings, 27-26.
The win was the fifth straight for Ayden-Grifton (6-2, 3-0 Eastern Carolina 2-A), and leaves the Chargers tied atop the conference with West Craven with a pair of road games looming. A-G is at North Lenoir next week.
McLawhorn attempted just four passes versus Kinston, completing two — both of which went to Anthony — for 58 yards. A week ago, he threw just one pass against Washington, and it was a 9-yard touchdown with a minute remaining.
Against the Vikings (7-1, 2-1), the 6-foot, 175-pound junior QB needed a bit more distance on what was essentially a win-or-lose play for Ayden-Grifton.
After Kinston took its first lead of the game with 5:30 left, McLawhorn orchestrated a 10-play, 60-yard drive that featured a pair of clutch third-down conversions. The first nine plays were runs, but with no timeouts and facing fourth down from the 28, the Chargers opted for a play-action pass call, and McLawhorn withstood Kinston’s pass rush and delivered a wobbler that reached a wide-open Anthony in the end zone.
“I stepped back, everybody was in my face, and I just saw Malik in the end zone and I just threw it,” McLawhorn said. “That was the only thing I could do right then. I’m just glad (the coaches) can trust me and my linemen and my receivers to do what’s got to be done and get the win.”
Anthony rushed five times for 42 yards for a Chargers offense that lost running backs Rashadeen Byrd and Ray Darden to ankle injuries during the night. Anthony had a 30-yard reception that set up a touchdown in the third, but his biggest play came in crunch time, when he found McLawhorn’s pass floating down toward him.
The 5-8, 153-pound senior leapt and hauled in the pass as he crashed to his back, putting the Chargers back on top to stay.
“I just knew I had to reel it in, no matter what,” Anthony said. “I knew I had to catch it and get it in the end zone. I just was like, ‘If I drop this, it’s over, and I cannot let that happen,’ so I just reeled it in and did what I had to do for my team.”
Kinston had one more shot to steal the win. The Vikings drove to A-G’s 29-yard line with 10 seconds remaining, but three consecutive incompletions ended it and gave the Chargers their fourth win in the last five years over Kinston.
A-G got a pair of TD runs from Byrd in the first quarter to take a 14-0 lead. Kinston QB Kieren Hooker threw touchdown passes on consecutive drives to end the first half and pull the Vikings to within 14-12 at halftime.
Micheal Webb gave the Chargers a 21-12 lead when he punched in a 3-yard TD on Ayden-Grifton’s first possession of the second half, only to see Hooker rush for a score, then unload a 53-yard bomb to Byron Harvey to give the Vikings a 26-21 lead with 5:30 to play.
“I don’t think there was ever a doubt in their minds that we could go down and get it done,” A-G coach Paul Cornwell said. “I think that’s just the toughness in the kids and the coaches. When that (lead change) happened, on the sideline, there was no fussing. We knew what we had to do and the guys really responded. We were fortunate to make a big play against a great team.”