Bison lament one that got away
When all-purpose star Germaine Pratt wanted the ball with High Point Central trailing Northwest Guilford by three and needing a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter, Bison coach Wayne Jones gave him the green light.
After all, Pratt was a big reason the Bison were still in the game, having scored three touchdowns, one on a 75-yard punt return and the other two on passes of 15 and 12 yards from Jamiel Mack.
Instead of a storybook ending, Pratt was dealt a cruel plot twist on his carry on first-and-goal from the Vikings 3 with just under two minutes to play. Trying to push across the goal line after slamming into the middle of the Northwest defensive front, Pratt lost control of the ball. It shot sideways and slightly forward into the end zone, where the Vikings recovered for a touchback, ending Bison hopes of a victory that would put them in control of their own destiny in the Piedmont Triad 4A Conference race.
Northwest ran out the clock to improve to 8-0 and 1-1 in the league. Central dropped to 5-3, 1-1, with the three losses by a total of five points.
“That was a play that he called and he wanted,” Jones said. “He was trying to get some extra yards and fumbled, took his hand off the ball. I’m proud of him. He played hard. It was just one of those things.”
Central might not have needed the heroics at the end if it had not failed tacking on points after touchdowns, a problem that also factored in the other two losses, or if it had been able to stop Northwest running back Anthony Harding early as the Vikings built leads of 14-0 and 21-6.
Harding ended with 179 yards and three touchdown carries that included the Vikings’ first two scores. He tallied on a 1-yard plunge to open the scoring one play after gaining 32 yards from the Central 32. And he helped set up the second score, on a 2-yard run, with a 44-yard gain from the Northwest 47,
Harding ended the half with 138 yards and added 38 in the second half, seven of them on a third touchdown run that made it 28-19 with just under 11 minutes to play.
“They were hitting us quick at the point of attack,” Jones said of the Bison’s slow start on defense. “We really didn’t answer the bell at the time. The linebackers weren’t getting downhill at the time. They made adjustments in the second half and started getting downhill a little bit better.”
The Bison offense also was slow answering the bell, generating just 15 yards before Mack got it going by breaking loose on a 33-yard touchdown run, faking a handoff and dashing up the middle. It came after Pratt took a punt to the Vikings 23 and a penalty backed the ball to the 33.
After Mack’s touchdown, the Bison’s conversion woes began when a bobbled snap killed the point after attempt. Central tried to offset that by going for a 2-point conversion after its second touchdown pass, a short toss from Mack that Pratt turned into a 15-yard scoring play. The Bison appeared to tack on two points on a pass from Mack to Juwan Fogge. But it was nullified by an offensive pass interference penalty. Mack threw an interception on the second attempt, making the score 21-12.
After the Vikings went three-and-out, Pratt got the Bison close, catching the ball at his 25 and going the distance. Campbell Locke booted the point after to make it 21-19.
Harding pushed the margin to 28-19 on his 7-yard run with 10:56 to go. On the Bison’s ensuing possession, Mack threw an interception inside the Viking 10, leaving the Bison in need of a break. They got it by blocking a punt and recovering the ball at the Northwest 20. Mack tossed the 12-yard touchdown pass to Pratt three plays later but the point after attempt was blocked, keeping the score at 28-25.
“It’s part of the game,” Jones said of the troubles on the conversion attempts. “We worked on fixing it and we thought we had it fixed. We’ll work on it some more.”