Friday night at Alton G. Brooks Stadium, he added some key offense to defensive prowess.
McGill provided what proved to be the game-winning score in Lumberton’s 20-14 nonconference win over Athens Drive when he stuffed Jaguars running back Dominique Lynch and tore the ball away on his way to a 25-yard touchdown jaunt on the first play out of halftime.
“Normally my eyes are always on the ball, not the running back,” McGill said. “Sometimes I’ve had the problem of always trying to strip the ball. I guess he didn’t see me and I stripped the ball from him. I just kept going and the next thing I knew it was a touchdown.”
It wasn’t just McGill’s presence of mind that enabled the significant takeaway.
“We hit the weight room,” he said. “We got everybody in the weight room this year. That right there proves that if you get your team in the weight room good things will happen.”
Athens Drive (3-2), however, nearly spoiled the Pirates (4-1) home victory with some last-second heroics.
Trailing 20-14 with 2:17 left, the Jaguars marched 59 yards to the Pirates 10-yard-line, left with 42.3 second remaining to put the ball in the end zone.
After a string of incompletions — which resulted in two near-interceptions by McGill and Daniel Robinson — and short-gain runs, Athens Drive had eight ticks left on the clock, facing 4th-and-goal. The Jaguars’ last-ditch play put the ball in the hands of quarterback Jason West, who scrambled away from McGill and the Pirates’ rush and lofted a pass into a crowd. There, after the ball was tipped around by three different players, Lumberton defensive end Jermaine Williams snagged the game-sealing interception as time expired.
“I just seen the ball go up in the air and I had to grab it,” said Williams, who added a sack and fumble recovery to his stats. “It felt good. It’s a good win … It’s a big win.”
After a punt-filled first quarter – Lumberton gained just 14 yards, Athens Drive moved the sticks just 22 – the two teams found their offensive-footing in the second, with all the first-half scoring done in a five-minute span. Despite the win, the Jagaurs out-gained the Pirates 270 yards to 199.
And both run-heavy teams were sparked by a pass.
Lumberton struck first when Jez Deese caught the Jaguars secondary by surprise, feathering a 30-yard touchdown strike to Allen Thompson in stride. Jace Ward booted the point-after to give the Pirates a 7-0 lead.
The Jaguars responded with what would be the most acrobatic catch of the night. Jason West, who threw for 200 yards on 13-of-28 passing, flung a 33-yard ball down the sideline to Jamie Barnes who corralled the pass with one hand. The ball stayed on the ground from there, yielding a 5-yard touchdown draw from tailback Dominique Lynch. He finished with a team-high 52 yards on 12 carries.
The Pirates needed just one play to regain the lead.
Daniel Robinson took a handoff into the trenches before shaking out of the scrum, saddling the visitor’s sideline and shaking off an attempted shoelace-tackle at the Jags’ 30-yard-line before polishing off an 80-yard touchdown run. Robinson, who was laboring in the second half after a heavy block he threw early in the third, finished with 105 yards on 10 carries.
“He took some hard hits,” Lumberton head coach Mike Brill said. “He’ll bounce back though, he’s tough as nails. One of the best I’ve ever had.”
With a rush score and a passing score in the books, it was the Pirate defense’s turn to light the board. On the Jaguars first play out of the locker rooms, McGill provided his takeaway to the paydirt, pushing Lumberton’s lead to 20-7.
Athens Drive came yards away from scoring early in the fourth, but a botched handoff from West to Lynch led to a fumble that Robinson pounced on. The Jaguars made up for it next time around.
Catching the Pirates secondary sleeping, West flung a pass to a streaking Brad Bowling for a 64-yard touchdown, closing the gap to 20-14 with 3:57 left.
Lumberton appeared prime to wind down the clock to a close on its ensuing drive, but Joshua Sheridan — after crossing the first-down marker — had the ball poked away back towards the line of scrimmage to leave the Pirates at fourth down. A shanked punt later put Athens Drive just 60 yards away from tying the game with two minutes left.
But the Lumberton defense had other plans, punctuated by Williams game-ending pick.
“All that in the last five minutes that was our fault,” Brill said. “We shot ourselves in the foot in the last five minutes … but they found a way to win.
“They’re resilient. They’re a scrappy bunch … I got to give all the credit to them. If they keep doing what they’re doing I don’t know what they might do this year.”