LUMBERTON — A few high school football teams remain active across the state over the Thanksgiving holiday, and will play a third-round playoff game on Friday night, but the season ended in Robeson County last Friday with Red Springs’ loss at West Craven.
It was a season with highs and lows for all five of Robeson County’s teams. In the Three Rivers Conference, that included Red Springs overcoming a tough non-conference loss to Forest Hills to earn a share of the league championship, St. Pauls beating the Red Devils to spoil their chance at an outright crown and Fairmont beating St. Pauls, a loss that ultimately cost the Bulldogs a share of the league title.
The county’s two Sandhills Athletic Conference schools saw less success, but Lumberton pulled out a couple of close non-conference wins and Purnell Swett earned their first win by beating the Pirates in one of the area’s best games of the season.
Now, as we endure a Friday without high school football for the first time since Aug. 16, let’s look back at some of the best games, performances and quotes from a memorable 2019 season.
GAMES OF THE YEAR
Fairmont at St. Pauls, Sept. 27
The season went downhill in October for Fairmont, but not before it earned a 16-13 win at St. Pauls, in the early portion of the Three Rivers Conference schedule, in a game that can be divided into two parts.
In the first act, St. Pauls’ defense reigned supreme, and the Bulldogs held a 13-2 lead late in the third quarter. In the second, after Fairmont inserted starting receiver Jahkeem Moore at quarterback, the Golden Tornadoes came back for a late lead, then held on to seal the win.
On Moore’s first play at quarterback he turned a broken play after a botched snap into an 80-yard run for a touchdown. Two drives later, after Fairmont recovered a fumble in St. Pauls territory, Moore found Skykeem Smith for a 10-yard touchdown and a 16-13 lead with 2:34 remaining.
After a solid kick return and a 25-yard pass from Mikail Breeden to Will Ford, St. Pauls was within range to attempt a 33-yard field goal with 8 seconds remaining, but Cameron Harrington blocked the kick to seal the Golden Tornadoes victory.
Lumberton at Purnell Swett, Nov. 8
This rivalry game in the season finale had no playoff implications, but it had a lot of other things: bragging rights on the line, a touchdown pass by a tight end, a 14-point second-half comeback, overtime and a walk-off field goal, as Purnell Swett earned a 24-21 win over Lumberton.
The Rams held a 7-0 halftime lead after a Micah Carter-to-Austin Chavis touchdown in a half that included a missed field goal by each side. The Rams turned to trickery on the second play of the second half and scored on a 37-yard pass from Chavis to Garyen Maynor to take a 14-0 lead.
Lumberton scored on its next three drives to take a 21-14 lead: a 2-yard Jadarion Chatman run on the first, a 25-yard pass from Chatman to Hayden Hickman on the second after an onside-kick recovery, and a 53-yard Chatman-to-Jordan McNeill connection with 8:16 to go.
The Rams answered on a 1-yard Zeke Snell run with 3:34 remaining to tie the game at 21-21. Snell then intercepted a Chatman pass in the red zone in the final minute of regulation to prevent the Pirates from a potential game-winning score.
In overtime, Chatman was intercepted by Snell again on a controversial play in which McNeill took the ball out of Snell’s hands after the play was, by rule, blown dead after the turnover. Three downs later, Nick Ramirez kicked a game-winning 31-yard field goal for the Rams, snapping a 13-game winless streak.
Marqueise Coleman, RB, St. Pauls vs. East Columbus
Marqueise Coleman had a season unlike any other by a Robeson County running back in recent memory, rushing for 1,984 yards and 28 touchdowns in his senior campaign for the Bulldogs. But one game against East Columbus stands out as a season-defining night.
Coleman rushed for 232 yards on 16 carries and scored six touchdowns on Sept. 13, leading the Bulldogs to a 41-6 win.
He averaged 14.5 yards per carry in the game, which was the culmination of a hot three-game start to the season when he had 690 yards and 12 touchdowns. Coleman finished the season averaging 180.4 yards per game.
Jadarion Chatman, QB, Lumberton vs. Pine Forest
The Lumberton Pirates didn’t have the season they hoped for, but in the second game of the season on Aug. 30 they did post a come-from-behind win over Pine Forest, thanks largely to Jadarion Chatman.
The Pirates’ junior signal-caller accounted for all 30 points in the victory — three rushing touchdowns, one passing touchdown and three two-point conversions.
Chatman rushed for 187 yards on 22 carries, with scoring runs of 11, 30 and 50 yards, while also earning one of his conversions on the ground. He averaged 8.5 yards per carry.
He also was 9-for-13 passing for 99 yards in the win, just four days removed from the passing game being shut almost completely down by Terry Sanford. Two of Chatman’s conversions came as passes.
Austin Chavis, DE/TE, Purnell Swett, vs. Lumberton
Chavis was one of the county’s best defensive players throughout the season, but his performance in his final high school game against Lumberton on Nov. 8 included offensive success as well.
The hard-nosed senior had 14 tackles against the Pirates, including 1 1/2 sacks, on the defensive side. Offensively, he caught four passes for 39 yards, with a 5-yard touchdown reception, and passed for 37-yard touchdown to Garyen Maynor on a trick play.
The performance helped lead Purnell Swett to the victory over Lumberton as the Rams avoided a winless season.
Cameron Harrington, LB/RB, Fairmont, vs. South Columbus
Fairmont’s win at South Columbus on Oct. 18 was a good sight for the Golden Tornadoes after back-to-back losses against Whiteville and East Bladen. A driving force in that game was the play of Harrington.
The senior linebacker intercepted a pass on the first play from scrimmage and returned it for a touchdown. He also rushed for three scores in close-yardage situations. He had nine tackles and four tackles for loss in the game.
THEY SAID IT
Fairmont coach Kevin Inman on blocking a potential game-tying field goal attempt by St. Pauls: “My heart I think started and stopped and started again. It was crazy.”
Lumberton interim coach Adam Deese on the Purnell Swett rivalry: “It’s going to be a barn-burner. Every year it turns into a battle. There’s no quit in this rivalry, no matter what the score is.”
Purnell Swett coach Robbie Brown on the first contact practice: “Tomorrow it’s going to be like opening a corral and letting a bunch of stallions out and trying to control them in all honesty. But that’s good. You want them to be anxious and ready to go.”
Red Springs coach Lawrence Ches on his defense’s performance at Fairmont: “We aren’t a defense of players, we are a defensive team. We’ve got 11 hungry dogs that run to the ball and make plays, and tackle. That’s what we have and that’s who we are.”
St. Pauls coach Mike Setzer after beating TRC co-champions Red Springs: “Our guys are capable of being the conference champs. That’s what we spoke to them about because I felt like Red Springs is the best team we would see this year. We had to prove to ourself that we belong.”
Chris Stiles can be reached at 910-816-1989 or by email at [email protected] You can follow him on Twitter at @StilesOnSports.