By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
With the start of the state playoffs still a couple of weeks away, Western Alamance’s football team played Roxboro Person on Friday night.
But the Warriors sensed urgency nonetheless.
“We came into the week knowing this was basically a playoff game,” Western senior defensive lineman Nick McGhee said.
The intensity at times suggested that description, with Western holding on for a 21-19 home victory despite giving up two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
“You’ve got to win the tight ones,” Western coach Jeff Snuffer said. “We have not played our best game. I’m still waiting to see us put it all together.”
A stellar defense, particularly in the first half, helped the Warriors.
Western (6-3 overall, 3-2 Central 3-A Conference) moved into a tie for third place in the league. The Rockets (5-4, 2-3) slipped to fifth place.
Both teams could qualify for the Class 3-A state playoffs, which begin next month. The Warriors, who finish the regular season against conference champion Southern Alamance, didn’t want to leave anything to chance.
“It was nerve-wracking,” Western linebacker and tight end Zeke May said. “I had faith we’d pull through.”
Roxboro Person took possession with 2:29 at its own 11-yard line following a Western punt and an illegal block penalty. Five plays later, William Clinkscales’ second interception of the game clinched the outcome.
“So many emotions right now,” McGhee said. “Close game. Fighting for playoffs. Probably my last game on this field. It came down to finding a way.”
Western’s James Newton rushed for 115 yards.
Newton scored on a 67-yard run on Western’s second possession of the game. The Warriors got the ball back later in the first quarter when McGhee recovered a Roxboro Person fumble near midfield,
Quarterback Evan Kuehnel ran 12 yards for a touchdown.
It stayed 14-0 until a wild third-quarter play when Rockets offensive lineman Scott Gentry picked up a fumble and ran a couple of yards into the end zone after the loose ball had been batted about 20 yards in that direction.
Newton’s punt return helped set up Western’s final touchdown, which came on Kuehnel’s 2-yard sneak.
But Roxboro Person scored twice in a span of slightly more than four minutes, failing on a two-point conversion after the first of those touchdowns. The last points came with 6:15 to play.
Western’s defense allowed 50 first-half yards, but the Warriors were dented at times in the second half.
The game’s start was delayed a half-hour because of a pregame storm that prevented normal team warm-ups and kept stadium gates closed to spectators.