By Doug Gorman
North Clayton quarterback Morgan Burnett is only a freshman.
On the football field Friday night against Region 4-AAAA and county rival Forest Park, he played like an upperclassman, leading the Eagles to a 17-13 victory.
Trailing 13-10 late in the fourth quarter, Burnett led the Eagles on an 80-yard scoring drive in exactly three minutes to help push North Clayton ahead with 3:44 remaining in the game.
It was North Clayton's (1-4, 1-3 Region 4-AAAA) first win of the year. Forest Park (0-4, 0-5 Region 4-AAAA) is still looking for its first win.
With a little more than a minute remaining in the game, Burnett showed he could also play a little defense intercepting a pass to seal the win.
"This is great for us," said Burnett. "I think the light finally came on for us tonight. We have been working hard all year and it finally paid off."
On the game-winning-drive, Burnett connected on a 27-yard pass to Demarcus Flanagan, but it was what he did when he kept the ball that kept the Panthers' defense off balance.
Burnett picked up gains of 12 yards twice and 18 yards on another keeper to eat up a bulk of the drive.
Then with the ball set at the Forest Park 4, Dominque Randolph scored on a 4-yard scamper.
Burnett said he was confident he could lead the team to the end zone on the final series.
"I told them I might be a freshman, but I also wanted to step up and be a leader. I told them I would do my best to get us in the end zone."
The Eagles rolled up 228 yards of total offense, while holding the Panthers to 148.
Forest Park's Robert Baker singled handedly accounted for the bulk of the Panthers' yardage, turning in a 100-yard effort.
Baker got 55 of those yards on the Panthers' second play from scrimmage when he rambled to the end zone for the first score of the game.
The extra point failed, giving the Panthers a 6-0 lead.
On the next series, the Eagles scored their first touchdown of the game when Burnett generated an 8-yard, 60-play drive.
He capped the trip to the end zone on a 1-run sprint up the middle. Shaka Bangura booted the extra point for a 7-6 lead.
Bangura's 25-yard field goal with 9:19 remaining in the first half gave the Eagles a 10-6 cushion.
Forest Park appeared to catch one of its biggest breaks of the night late in the third quarter when it recovered a fumble deep in North Clayton territory.
Facing a fourth-down-and-11 from the Eagle's 31, Josh Froneberger connected with Anthony Harvey on a TD pass with 21 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
After the extra point, Forest Park clung to a 13-10 lead.