KING — In a clash of Wildcats against Wildcats featuring two schools with rich post-season football traditions, West Stokes overcame a nine-point halftime deficit by tallying three second-half …
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KING — In a clash of Wildcats against Wildcats featuring two schools with rich post-season football traditions, West Stokes overcame a nine-point halftime deficit by tallying three second-half touchdowns on its way to capturing a 26-21 triumph over Eastern Randolph Friday night on the winners’ field in second-round action of the NCHSAA 2A West playoffs.
Collecting its ninth straight victory, fourth-seed West Stokes improved to 10-3 for the year and now advances to face top-seed Mountain Heritage (11-1) in a third-round contest next Friday evening in Burnsville, while fifth-seed Eastern Randolph ended its season at 10-3.
Marking its 16th consecutive year making the playoffs while appearing in a second-round game for the sixth time in the last seven years, West Stokes is advancing to the next level for the first time since winning a state title in 2011.
Eastern Randolph, which won a state title in 2006 besides finishing as runner-up in both 1994 and 2002, boasts a string of 18 playoff appearances during a 19-year span from 1989-2007.
West Stokes quarterback Amon Conrad proved to be the difference Friday night, as the senior signal-caller accounted for 343 of his team’s 410 total offensive yards. Conrad completed 21-of-31 passes for 205 yards and a pair TD tosses with one interception while rushing for 138 yards and a score on 17 carries.
Chris Brown added 66 yards on 14 totes for the victors, scoring once on the ground in addition to hauling in a touchdown pass.
Eastern Randolph’s Cade Snotherly came close to matching Conrad’s numbers through the air, connecting on 10-of-17 passes for 189 yards and two scoring strikes, while Tavis McAdoo led the visitors’ ground game with 77 yards on 20 lugs, including a touchdown.
“To make a deep run in the playoffs you not only need to be good, but you also have to be lucky,” said West Stokes coach Jimmy Upchurch. “This has been a season where we haven’t had to face much adversity until now, so I wondered if we could dig deep enough when things got tough, and tonight I got my answer. We’ve got a group of seniors who have played together for awhile, and this evening they stepped up on both offense and defense to make plays at the right time. We give our quarterback a lot of options to make the call on the field, and Amon took advantage of seeing openings in the defense when he decided to run, while he became more patient throwing the ball in the second half.”
Eastern Randolph coach Burton Cates stated it was a game between two evenly-matched teams, and felt going into the fourth quarter his squad had a chance to pull out a win.
“We hurt ourselves tonight with turnovers and not making plays on third downs on both sides of the ball,” said Cates. “We played as good as we could the first quarter and had the momentum, but a holding call cost us a score in the first half. I thought we did a good job limiting their best running back and receiver, but we didn’t get enough pressure on their quarterback, and he managed to make good decisions at the right time against our defense.”
Following an early exchange of possessions, Eastern Randolph moved 52 yards in three plays to grab an 8-0 advantage when McAdoo capped the drive by bursting the last eight yards up the middle before J.B. Farrish ran in a two-point conversion over left tackle with 5:40 remaining in the initial period.
After West Stokes’ Kelin Parsons recovered a McAdoo fumble at the host team’s 44 with 18 seconds left in the opening stanza, the winners mounted a nine-play scoring march climaxed by Conrad connecting with Brown on an eight yard left-to-right slant pattern to trim the gap to 8-6 with 8:52 to go in the second quarter.
Starting from its own 43 following the ensuing kickoff, Eastern Randolph traveled 57 yards in six plays to increase its lead to 15-6. Snotherly culminated the drive with a 26-yard pass to Osiris Ross open on the right side of the end zone prior to Carter Moore kicking the point-after with 5:09 remaining in the first half.
Pinned back at its own three following an Eastern Randolph punt with just over eight minutes left in the third period, West Stokes proceeded to launch an impressive 11-play, 97-yard scoring march ending with Conrad lobbing an 18-yard TD strike to Parsons, who made a leaping catch over a defender at the goal line to narrow the margin to 15-12 with 2:36 to go in the quarter.
West Stokes then seized its first advantage of the night with 10:25 left in the fourth stanza when Conrad finished off a six-play, 59-yard scoring drive by spinning off right tackle the final yard into the end zone before Palmer Elliot caught a two-point conversion pass to put his team up 20-15.
Just over four minutes later Cameron Pack recovered an Eastern Randolph bobble on a botched double-reverse to give West Stokes possession at the ER 46, and four plays later they stretched their lead to 26-15 on Brown’s two-yard dash over left guard with 4:32 remaining to play.
Eastern Randolph answered right back with a four-play, 42-yard scoring march concluding with Snotherly’s 23-yard TD toss to Kaemen Marley at the front left corner of the end zone that pulled the visitors from Ramseur within 26-21 with 2:55 to go.
But Conrad would then gather in ER’s ensuing onside kick at his own 48 prior to West Stokes recording two crucial first downs to run out the clock and secure the victory.