West Brunswick will have to settle for gradual progress in 2009.
The Trojans, just two years removed from a winless season, fell 28-7 to Fayetteville Douglas Byrd Friday night at M.H. Rourk Stadium in the second round of the N.C. Class 3-A state playoffs.
Their season ended at 8-4 following a 6-6 campaign last year.
"It's been real good to come from an 0-11 season to come back and go to the second round," senior running back Maverick Pate said. "It's been great being a senior playing here. I wish I could start all over again.''
Miscues felled the Trojans in the first half. West Brunswick lost three of the four fumbles it committed in the first quarter and had a punt blocked for a touchdown in the second quarter to trail 14-7 at the half.
Byrd's size and power finished the job in the second half. The Eagles (9-3), who returned a handful of offensive starters and two defensive starters from a team that reached the 2008 Class 4-A state championship game, controlled the ball in the second half, when they gained most of their 383 yards rushing on 56 carries.
The Eagles' Lorenzo Pooler opened the scoring nearly 5 minutes into the second quarter when he blocked a punt attempt by Bradley Bell after Bell dropped the snap, then recovered the ball in the back of the end zone.
The Trojans got a blocked punt of their own to tie the game at 7. Senior Alfy Hill got a hand on a punt at the Eagles' 31, and junior Quan Bates raced 31 yards on the next play on a quarterback option keeper over the left side.
A 45-yard pass to Malik Underwood to the Trojans' 6 set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Junior Williams with just 39 seconds left in the half, and the Eagles took control of the line of scrimmage to embark on the game's only sustained drive to open the second half. They drove 77 yards on 11 rushing plays, including a 5-yard scoring run by Pooler. A 63-yard run by Williams set up the final score of the game with 6:30 to play.
"The drive at the end of the half was big because we'd kind of bumbled along," said Eagles coach Russell Stone. ". . . In the second half we just wanted to see how tough they were, so we just got under center and ran right at them and they weren't able to stop us. That set the tone."
The Eagles' power allowed them to overcome 11 penalties for 110 yards. One holding penalty negated a 23-yard touchdown run and another negated a 35-yard gain on a fourth down, leading to Hill's blocked punt on the next play. Byrd's defense held West Brunswick's potent rushing attack to 152 yards on 32 carries, led by Pate's 66 yards on nine carries.
``We could have won this game," Pate said. "When we went 0-11 everybody's heart went down, and ever since I've been on this team nobody has heart after we start to lose. When they get up we have no heart to stay in the game and try to fight back. We just get weak and fall down. We've got to get better at it. In the next year coming up, if they want to go far they're going to have to have more heart than we had this year."