Trailing by two in the fourth quarter, Hoggard went on an 11-play, 53-yard drive and Tony Allen punched in his third touchdown of the night with 6:02 remaining as the No. 6 ranked Vikings rallied past No. 11 E.E. Smith 28-22 at Scott Braswell Stadium.
Hoggard improved to 8-4 overall with their fourth straight result, while the Golden Bulls saw their season come to an end, falling to 7-5 on the year.
“I’m just so proud of how much this team’s matured throughout the course of the season,” said Hoggard first-year Coach Craig Underwood. “I think we proved tonight that we’re battled tested and a big playoff victory.”
Facing a fourth down play on the final scoring drive of the game, Bryant Sasser hit Collin Hairr for a five-yard reception to move the chains and Hunter Louthan made his first catch on an 11-yard rollout pass from Sasser to get inside the 15-yard line before Allen scored the game-winner to grab the four-point advantage. A successful two-point conversion from Sasser to Louthan extended the lead to six.
Allen rushed for over 60 yards on nine carries and Rashod Wallace had 12 touches for 78 yards on the ground.
Led by senior quarterback Vaughn Covington, who rushed for over 1,700 yards during the regular season, E.E. Smith used a 56-yard run by Unique Johnson on the first play from scrimmage to get deep into Hoggard territory. Following a personal foul penalty to back the Golden Bulls up to 4th and 16, Covington hit freshman Bray Ginyard on a 28-yard touchdown pass to put the visitors from Fayetteville in front 7-0 with just two minutes gone by in the opening period.
Covington finished with over 100 yards rushing on 23 carries, while Yogi Thorton took a bulk of the work after Johnson left the game because of injury. Thorton racked up 58 yards on just 12 rushes, but three interceptions by the Vikings proved to be a difference maker as Brandon Ray sealed the Golden Bulls’ fate with Hoggard’s third takeaway late in the fourth quarter.
“We preached all week that they are a very good and athletic football team,” Underwood said. “Their running game is excellent as you saw and our defense was bend, but don’t break tonight.”
The Vikings posted a shutout over the final 24 minutes after E.E. Smith seized momentum with 15 points in less than one minute to close the first half. Covington scored on a 10-yard run to pull within five with 18 seconds to go in the second quarter and Rayshawn Blake had a 45-yard interception return to go ahead 22-20 at the break.
“It’s the growing pains of coaching,” Underwood added. “We could have probably took a knee with the ball and a lead, but sometimes you make those decisions and I thought it was the right one. You live and die by it.”
Hoggard scored on its opening two possessions of the game to grab a 14-7 lead and went on an eight-play, 68 yard drive to make it 20-7 following an 11 yard touchdown by Allen at the 2:35 mark of the second stanza.
Sasser hit Tristan Kandare on a 20-yard pass play in the flat to get on the board and the Vikings took over deep in the red zone following a bad snap on a fourth down punt to set up Allen’s first scoring play from five yards out.
Cullem Crowley finished with two interceptions and Omar Jones had four tackles for loss in the winning effort.
Hoggard will travel to No. 3 Durham-Hillside in the second round of the 4A tournament on Friday, November 20. Durham defeated No. 14 Person 55-9 on Friday.
E.E. Smith 7-15-0-0=22
E.E. Smith- Vaughn Covington, 28-yard pass to Bray Ginyard, (PAT, Griffen Timmreck) 10:08
Hoggard- Bryant Sasser, 20-yard pass to Tristan Kandare, (PAT, Nick Orsa) 6:43
Hoggard- Tony Allen, 5-yard run, (PAT, Orsa) 3:33
Hoggard- Tony Allen, 11-yard run, 2:35
E.E. Smith- Vaughn Covington, 10-yard run, (2-point conversion) :18
E.E. Smith- Rayshawn Blake, 45-yard interception return,
Hoggard- Tony Allen, 4-yard run, (2-point conversion) 6:02