By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The Northeast (Clarksville) Eagles were able to ice the Class 5A State Playoff first round game when Quinton Cross picked up a first down on third and 3 with slightly more than 2 minutes remaining in the game.
The Eagles (6-5) ran out the final two minutes to prevail 36-29 and advance to the next round. The Cardinals (9-2) saw their championship season come to an end.
Brighton entered the contest as a No. 1 seed and winners of their Region. The Cardinals proved early why they were champions jumping out to a 7-0 lead when quarterback Malik Jackson tossed a swing pass to Aaron Alston.
Alston blasted through the Eagles’ defense toward the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown.
Northeast had an answer at the 7:38-mark of the first quarter when Cross introduced himself to the Brighton crowd with a direct-snap run, weaving through the Cardinal defense for a 46-yard score.
The game was deadlock at 7-7 until the second quarter when Northeast got a safety to make the score 9-7. Brighton had a chance to take the lead driving deep into Clarksville territory. But back-to-back penalties transformed third and goal into a 42-yard field goal try. The kick was just short and Northeast led 9-7 at the break.
The scoring picked up in the second half starting with a 20-yard touchdown for Northeast when QB Benji Burchwell connected with Gus Antoine to make the score 15-7.
The Cardinals drove down the field using senior running back Zach Camp. The Brighton drive ended when Camp fought to cross the goal line from 1 yard out to make the tally 15-13.
The score changed quickly with the kickoff. Antonie caught the ball about the 9-yard line. As he headed across the field, the tossed a reverse to Cross.
The Cross-up worked with the speedster racing up the sideline for a 91-yard touchdown to make the score 22-13.
The Eagles seemed to put the game away in the third quarter when Antonie scored his second touchdown of the night. He took an option pitch from Burchwell and race into the end zone to make the score 29-13.
Early in the fourth quarter the Cardinals mounted a comeback. Senior receiver Austin Kelley helped Brighton edge closer with a touchdown catch to make the tally 29-19.
Brighton chipped into the deficit even more at the 7:56-mark when Nolan Combs drilled a 35-yard field goal to make the score 29-22.
The Cardinal defense appeared to get their offense the ball back forcing a punt with 3 minutes and 52 second left in the game. But an apparent roughing-the-punter penalty gave Northeast 15 yards to keep its drive alive. Fullback Sebastian Bacino capitalized on the call and blasted through Brighton’s defense for a 24-yard touchdown to make the score 36-22 with 3:36 left.
Brighton had to answer quickly and a long pass play to Kelley set the Cardinals up at the 11-yard line. An unsportsmanlike penalty on Northeast placed the ball half the distance to the goal line.
Jackson found teammate Lorenzo Frazier for the touchdown pass to make the score 36-29. That was the final touchdown of the night as the Eagles were able to run out the clock.
The Eagles move into the Second Round to face Henry County. The Patriots were victorious 35-14 over the Munford Cougars in First Round action.
OTHER AREA SCORES
Class 5A: Henry County 35 Munford 14
Class 4A: Hardin County 35 Millington 14
D-IIA: Northpoint Christian 55 Tipton-Rosemark Academy 0