Southeast Raleigh used a trio of quick-strike scoring plays in the second half and a takeaway-happy defense to rally past Clayton for a 35-31 victory Friday night.
The win gave the Bulldogs (5-5, 3-3 Greater Neuse River 4A) the No. 3 playoff seed in the conference.
Southeast Raleigh finished in a three-way tie for third with Clayton (7-4, 3-3) and East Wake (also 3-3 in the conference). Southeast defeated both East Wake and Clayton, earning the No 3 seed. The Comets also defeated East Wake to secure the No. 4 playoff seed from the GNRC.
Southeast Raleigh twice rallied from 10-point deficits in the second half.
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With the Bulldogs behind 24-14, senior quarterback Darris Bridgers, who came off the bench to pass for two touchdowns and run for another, hit Jaquell Taylor for an 80-yard touchdown.
Clayton answered with a 77-yard drive to go up 31-21 on Rodney Rowe’s third touchdown of the game, a 7-yard run.
On the ensuing kickoff, Southeast Raleigh’s Fred McDuffie went 99 yards for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 31-28 with 2:54 left in the third quarter.
Clayton’s Rowe fumbled on the Comets’ first play from scrimmage following McDuffie’s TD return, and Southeast Raleigh had the ball at the Clayton 4.
A pair of penalties pushed the Bulldogs back to a third-and-goal from the 20, but Bridgers found McDuffie in the back of the end zone for a touchdown and Southeast Raleigh was up 35-31 with 1:32 left in the wild third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Clayton quarterback Sam May threw three interceptions as the run-oriented Comets went to the air when the Bulldogs’ defense began to take away the Clayton running game.
“The big plays were the story of the game,” Clayton coach Randy Pinkowski said. “They really plugged up the middle and slowed the run game down. We were doing good things defensively and they got off a couple of big plays on us.
“Tonight, they took the ground game away and put us in unfamiliar territory having to throw the ball and they made some great plays.”
Bridgers went 2-for-5 passing for 100 yards and the two touchdowns and also had a 2-yard scoring run in the first half.
“This was a big game for us,” Southeast Raleigh coach Marvin Burke said. “It’s been an up and down year, but the kids fought hard and persevered. This is the most excitement we have had all year. This is something to build off of.”
Sophomore Dylan Parham started at quarterback for the Bulldogs and had a 48-yard touchdown pass in the first half, but Bridgers was the man at the end.
“Both of those kids do different things well,” Burke said. “Dylan is more of an in-the-pocket passer while Darris is more of a scrambler who can run around and create some things.”
Rowe led Clayton with 161 yards rushing and fullback Jace Brown had 76 yards rushing to go over 1,000 yards for the season (1,010).