NEW LONDON — A call in the final moments of Friday’s matchup between North Stanly and Randleman led to the referees being escorted by police out of the football stadium as Comets fans yelled in their direction.
With 10 seconds left in the game, Randleman (1-3, 0-0 PAC-7) was trailing by four points and down to its final play. Quarterback Christian Long heaved the ball into the end zone where a Comets defender knocked it out of the hands of a Tigers receiver, triggering a short-lived celebration.
The play, however, was not yet finished as the ball bounced into the hands of Randleman’s Jozey Akines. After a lengthy discussion between the officiating crew, a touchdown was signaled with the ruling that the ball had bounced off a player’s foot instead of the ground to give the Tigers a 31-28 road win over the Comets (1-3, 0-0 Yadkin Valley).
“I thought it was incomplete — it hit the ground,” North Stanly coach Scott Crisco said of the Tigers’ final pass.
The loss erased the merits of a strong second-half performance from the Comets. Facing a 17-7 deficit entering the second half, North Stanly rallied past the Tigers in the third quarter and led the game going into the fourth.
The Comets started their comeback just after halftime when receiver B.A. Harris caught a pass from quarterback Luke Shaver and eluded several Tigers defenders for a 71-yard touchdown.
The Comets then took their first lead when junior running back Cameron Smith scored on a 5-yard touchdown run at 3:53 of the third quarter to put North Stanly ahead 21-17.
Halfway through the fourth quarter, the Tigers came within a yard of getting the go-ahead score, but Long stepped out of bounds just short of the pylon and Randleman came away empty-handed following a 75-yard drive. Then with four minutes to play, the Tigers recorded their second interception of the night to set up a 3-yard touchdown run from running back Thomas Dobias.
But North Stanly rallied again, and senior Stefan Harris’ 33-yard touchdown run reclaimed the lead for the Comets.
That set up Akines’ game-winning score and the controversial call.
“This is the biggest challenge we’ve had, and the game got taken from us,” Crisco said. “I was proud of how our offense and defense responded in the second half, but it’s sad a grown man can take something away from high school kids like that.”
The Tigers were able to strike first by taking advantage of Shaver’s first interception four minutes into the game. A minute later, Randleman’s Akines put the Tigers on the board with his 7-yard touchdown run.
The Comets responded at the 10:48 mark in the second quarter when Shaver converted on a 1-yard quarterback sneak to tie the game.
On the ensuing drive, running back Ervodd Cassady had a 2-yard touchdown run to give the Tigers a 14-7 lead, and Randleman senior kicker Chris Gentry added a 41-yard field goal with 38 seconds left in the second quarter to extend Randleman’s lead to 10 at halftime.
After a bye week, North Stanly’s conference play is set to begin on Oct. 1 as the Comets travel to Monroe to take on winless Union Academy (0-5, 0-0 Yadkin Valley).