MORGANTON – The McDowell Titans junior varsity football team ended the 2017 season on Thursday night, losing 14-7 to the Freedom Patriots in a defensive battle along the banks of the majestic Catawba River in Morganton.
Thursday’s jayvee encounter was the first between the two squads since the 2010 football season, and for three quarters, neither team was able to break through offensively against the other.
All of the points that were produced came in the final eight minutes of game time.
McDowell (3-6 overall, 2-5 NW 3A/4A Conference) controlled the ball for most of the second half with its running and short-pass attack. Those plays helped set up the one big yard-producer down the field at just the right time.
Quarterback Richard Handy (9-of-16 passing, 84 yds., TD, 2 INTs), on a third-down play, hit Dequan Boyce on a vertical route down the left sideline. Boyce snagged the perfectly thrown pass and scored from 36 yards out with 8:26 left. Seth Baird’s point-after gave the Titans a 7-0 advantage.
Given how the first three quarters were played defensively, many spectators no doubt felt that one score would be enough.
However, Freedom wasted no time in debunking that theory.
The Patriots, on their first attempt to throw the ball downfield in the game, made the best of that opportunity as Desmond Hedrick hit Kenyon Hemphill on a 66-yard pass play down the home sideline, getting Freedom to within 7-6 with 7:58 left after a failed two-point conversion attempt.
Still ahead by a point, the Titans continued to rely on its formula of short passing and running plays to keep the clock moving and it was effective enough to get McDowell back into Freedom territory.
Unfortunately, things bogged down near the three-minute mark and McDowell eventually gave the ball back over to Freedom.
For the Patriots, the last opportunity with the football turned out very profitable on their end.
After a couple sizeable running plays got them back into McDowell territory, Hedrick threw the game-winning touchdown pass on a 24-yard play to Devon Aldridge, pushing Freedom ahead 14-7 with 2:54 left. On the play Aldridge broke his route and came back to a poorly thrown pass attempt. He made the catch just inside the numbers and scampered past a trio of Titan defenders to pay dirt for the decisive score.
McDowell touched the ball one last time after Freedom scored and was denied as Handy was intercepted by Aldridge on a pass attempt on the Patriots side of the 50 with just over two minutes left.
The Titans finished with 217 yards on offense. Freshman tailback Quantavian Moore had 107 yards on 16 rush attempts.
Boyce (62 yards), Moore (11 yards) and Luke Bright (11 yards) had three receptions apiece for McDowell in the loss.