By Jeffery Armstrong
North Clayton Eagles linebacker James Cochran tackled Mays running back Barry Stephens for a loss on third-and-goal as time ran out, allowing the Eagles to hold on to a 22-14 homecoming win over the Raiders Friday night at Tara Stadium.
No. 10 North Clayton stays perfect at 6-0, 1-0 in Region 5-AAAA East while Mays falls to 3-3, 0-1 in the subregion.
With 3:40 left to go in the fourth quarter, Mays drove from its own 36 yard line to first-and-goal at the four with less than 29 seconds left. Two plays later, Mays faced third down at the 1 with four seconds remaining. After the Raiders used their last time out, they ran the freshman Stephens to the right side. Cochran, a sophomore, pushed through the Raiders offensive line and tackled Stephens at the four as the final buzzer sounded. North Clayton players jumped around and hugged each other, celebrating the hard-fought victory.
"The only thought in my mind before they snapped the ball was just to make a play," Cochran said. "When I saw that I had him in sight, I had to make that tackle."
Making tackles was something North Clayton players couldn't seem to do early in the first half. Mays came out red hot, running through the Eagles defense easily. Raiders quarterback Ramon McElrathybey started their drive with an 80-yard screen pass to Naeem Thomas to the Eagle 5-yard line. Thomas would've scored if not for a good hustle play from cornerback Dirk Engram.
Stephens ran it in the end zone on the next play for a 7-0 Mays lead with 8:51 left in the first quarter.
Eagles running back Dominique Randolph gained several yards in the first quarter, but North Clayton stalled on their next drive. Mays then drove 90 yards in 15 plays, ending with Timothy Bolton's eight-yard TD run for a 14-0 lead with 8:25 left in the second quarter.
Randolph and Eagles quarterback Morgan Burnett took over from there. Both players touched the ball on their next possession, leading to a 1-yard TD run by Burnett to cut the Mays lead to 14-7.
North Clayton finally held the Mays offense down and Burnett went to work again. With 1:33 left in the first half at the Eagle 32, Burnett called his own number and raced almost untouched 68 yards for the touchdown to tie the game at 14 at the half. Burnett finished with 149 yards on 13 carries and the two TDs.
The Eagles defense dominated Mays in the third quarter, holding the Raiders to nine yards. Randolph (110 yards rushing) ran well and Burnett shook off a cramp on an 11-play, six-minute drive that ended with Burnett tossing a 25-yard TD pass to Engram. Burnett converted the two-point conversion and gave the Eagles their first lead of the game, 22-14.
Penalties and dropped passes by Mays receivers kept the Raiders down until the final 3:40. Eagles head coach Don Shockley was pleased with the defensive effort of his team.
"That was a terrific goal-line stand. The team as a whole played well," Shockley said. "Once the guys played their assignments on defense, everything worked out well."