By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
Cummings needed one more defensive play to thwart visiting North Moore on Monday night in a Mid-Carolina Conference showdown.
Instead, the Mustangs completed an improbable pass play to set up the winning points in a 36-33 victory.
North Moore converted a fourth-and-15 play when Joseph Ritter ripped the ball away from Cummings’ Jonathan Paylor to haul in a first-down catch at the Cummings’ 2-yard line.
On the next play, the Mustangs went ahead on Jakarey Gillis’ run with 50.8 seconds remaining.
The Cavaliers couldn’t muster any more heroics on offense, so the Mid-Carolina Conference has a three-way tie at the top. Cummings players were devastated.
“They’re upset and I guess we’re all upset,” Cummings coach David Grimm said.
North Moore (7-2, 6-1) joined the Cavaliers (7-2, 6-1) and Southeast Alamance (6-3, 6-1) in first place. Cummings visits Southeast with a share of first place at stake Friday night, while North Moore finishes at home against winless Chatham Central (0-9, 0-7).
The North Moore/Cummings game had enough twists and turns to satisfy any impartial observers.
“We knew it was going to be that way,” said North Moore coach Andrew Carrouth, a Southern Alamance alum and former head coach at his alma mater.
Trailing 33-29, North Moore’s winning drive consisted of 13 plays. The only passing yards came on the second catch of the season for Ritter.
“They made the play,” Grimm said. “We just didn’t stop them when we needed to.”
Paylor was nearly unstoppable at times, scoring three touchdowns. He finished with 171 rushing yards on 16 carries.
He scored on a 51-yard run on the first snap after North Moore took a fourth-quarter lead. But that gave the ball right back to the Mustangs, who began their winning drive at the 8:41 mark.
Cummings quarterback Devin Witherspoon scored the game’s first points on a 22-yard run. Gillis answered with a 43-yard TD run.
Paylor dashed 79 yards to score on a punt return and tacked on a two-point conversion run before North Moore’s 12-play march lasting nearly 7½ minutes resulted in a 14-14 tie. Both teams threatened late in the first half, but Cummings’ Angel Ramos was short on a 42-yard field goal attempt and time ran out on North Moore after it reached the Cavaliers’ 7.
Paylor’ 26-yard run and Witherspoon’s 11-yard run were scoring plays sandwiching North Moore’s third-quarter touchdown run by 6-foot-6, 255-pound Colby Pennington, who threw for a first-half touchdown. But the Cavaliers were unsuccessful on both two-point conversion runs.
Cummings had less than a minute of time of possession in the fourth quarter. Carrouth said that felt like too much as he didn’t plan for the Mustangs to score so quickly from the 2-yard line after the big fourth-down conversion, figuring it would be best to let more time run off.
The Mustangs have rattled off five straight victories since a 33-0 setback at Southeast.
“Kept getting better and kept fighting,” Carrouth said.
North Moore won 28-25 last year against Cummings in a game that decided the league champion.