Published: 12:46 AM, Sat Nov 06, 2010
Purnell Swett clinches playoff berth with win over Lumberton
LUMBERTON - Without a second thought, Purnell Swett coach Mark Heil still labels Juan Jones as a project. Even through a two-game suspension earlier this season for a fight at Pine Forest, as well as the tremendous amount of stubbornness a 17-year-old kid can dish out, the energetic mentor continued to keep faith in his junior running back.
The patience paid off Friday evening against Lumberton.
Jones racked up 219 all-purpose yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown with just more than two minutes to play as the visiting Rams upended Lumberton, 22-17, on Friday evening at Alton G. Brooks Stadium.
Despite the loss, the Pirates (8-3, 3-2 Southeastern) kept a grip on the No. 2 seed in the Southeastern Conference, while Purnell Swett (7-4, 2-3) guaranteed itself a spot in the state playoffs by finishing fourth in the league.
Jones rushed 20 times for 83 yards, caught a pass for 57 yards and registered 79 return yards on special teams to pace the Rams, who captured their second-straight win over Lumberton, as well as the third in the last four series matchups.
Jason Hunt hauled in a pair of catches for the visitors, including a game-saving 38-yard reception late in the final period. Quarterback Chase Armstrong threw for 116 yards and ran for 17 more for the Rams as well.
Brent Bristow ran for a team-best 48 yards on five carries for Lumberton, which was missing an important part of its team. An announcement over the public address system about 10 minutes before kickoff indicated that head coach Mike Brill had traveled to Chapel Hill to handle a family emergency.
"I'm sure not having Mike Brill on the sidelines was tough," Heil said after the game. "I know exactly what he's going through. God's going to bless him and everything is going to work out. It is an acknowledgement for our team to hang in there after all of the disappointments that we had in conference play."
Two lengthy drives in the opening half would account for most of the offensive prowess by both sides as the two bitter rivals went into halftime embraced in a 7-7 tie in what had been deemed the "Backyard Brawl II." Lumberton put together a 12-play, 68-yard scoring drive midway through the first quarter that drained just more than six minutes off the clock, but Purnell Swett intercepted North on the following Lumberton possession to set up an arduous drive of its own. Having set up shop at their own 10-yard line following the pick off by Travion Pearson, the Rams capped a 10-play, 90-yard drive on Armstrong's short plunge up the middle that tied the score with 1:48 left before intermission.
Purnell Swett took its first lead of the game early in the third period when Brandon Callahan jumped on kicker Connor Haskins in the end zone on a muffed punt attempt, and then padded its advantage out to nine, 16-7, just less than 20 seconds later when Travon Clark scampered 33 yards for another score. Lumberton's defense would whittle the deficit down to just two points when Mac McGill forced an Armstrong fumble late in the third quarter, scooped up the ball and raced 67 yards untouched to get the Pirates back to within two, 16-14.
The Pirates grabbed their second lead of the game, 17-16, on Haskins's 35-yard field goal attempt with 3:23 left to play, but Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 33 yards to near midfield, and wide receiver Jason Hunt got the Rams into striking distance when he reached over the helmet of a defender and hauled in a severely underthrown ball by Armstrong. Jones' go-ahead score seconds later would send the Rams faithful on hand into a controlled frenzy.