PLYMOUTH — Princeton’s unlikely Cinderella run in the state playoffs came to an end Friday, but the Bulldogs put up one last good fight.
Carl McCray rushed 13 times for 95 yards and four short touchdowns, leading heavily favored Plymouth to a 42-20 win over the Bulldogs in the Eastern 1A championship game at Foster Field.
Plymouth (14-1), champion of the Four Rivers 1A, will play Murphy for the state championship on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Carter-Finley Stadium.
Plymouth won the state 1-A title in 2007.
Princeton (5-9) is thought to be the first football team in the NCHSAA to win more playoff games than regular-season games in the same year. The Bulldogs were 2-8 in the regular season.
“It’s unbelievable what we were able to do,” Princeton coach Derrick Minor said. “To believe that you can do anything and then actually have it happen on the field, sometimes you need to see the proof and the evidence of it.
“We finally saw that. It’s disappointing the way that we lost, but I’m so proud of the guys and wouldn’t change a thing.”
Johnny Frasier carried 20 times for 108 yards and one touchdown, and also scored on an 80-yard pass play for Princeton.
Quadree Pettiford carried 13 times for 95 yards for Plymouth, which led 24-14 at halftime.
“We did really well on kickoff coverage early, but we made some mistakes to let them back in the game,” Plymouth coach Robert Cody said.
The Vikings scored on their first two possessions. After recovering a fumble on the opening kickoff, they needed just four plays to go 29 yards, making it 8-0.
Then the Vikings needed three plays to score on a one-yard McCray run. Pitt’s conversion run made it 16-0 with 7:51 left in the quarter.
Khalil Sheppard returned a Michael Wooten pass 85 yards down the right sideline for another score with Pitt again adding the run, making it 24-0.
Frasier went in from four yards out to finish a four-play, 29-yard march. That drive followed Reggie Perry’s fumble recovery.
The Bulldogs cut it to 24-14 at the horn, one play after Jamaal Allen intercepted Shamonte Ferebee’s pass in the end zone. With 11 seconds left Michael Wooten connected with Jake Sullivan. Sullivan lateraled to Frasier who sprinted up the middle to complete an 80-yard play. Sullivan ran the two-point conversion.
“We call that the Jake-and-bake,” Sullivan said with a laugh. “We ran it against North Duplin in the playoffs and it worked, so we figured heck, let’s do it again.”
Cody said it was a tough blow, but Plymouth had time to recover.
“Our kids were looking around like we were down, but we were still 10 points up,” he said. “We still had a really good ground game.”
Plymouth struck a huge blow with 1:38 left in the third, as Ferebee hit DeAndre Phelps for a 33-yard scoring connection on fourth-and-5 to finish a 10-play, 82-yard drive.
The Vikings put it away on the first play of the fourth quarter, as McCray went in from a yard out to make it 36-14.
Plymouth made it 42-14 with 9:35 when McCray went in again from a yard out, two plays after Ahllyric Norman’s 54-yard interception return.
Sullivan scored Princeton’s final touchdown from a yard out.