In a high school football game that wasn’t close for most of the night — and then suddenly was in its last five minutes of play — the Whiteville (North Carolina) Wolfpack defeated the Socastee Braves 27-24.
The game featured hard running, chewing up big chunks of yardage, by Whiteville’s 6-foot, 200-pound tailback Shaheem Shipman, who is being hailed as one of the best running backs in North Carolina 2A high school football.
With less than five minutes left in the game and the Wolfpack leading 27-17, the contest also featured three onside kicks by the Braves. The first one, attempted by Socastee after Braves quarterback Rocco Wojcik scored on a five-yard run, was re-kicked because of a penalty against the Wolfpack.
The second onside kick by the Braves was recovered by Socastee’s Israel Lewis, which brought the crowd at Braves Stadium to its feet.
But then, on the next play, Braves quarterback Wojcik threw a long pass for an interception, giving the Wolfpack possession of the ball on its own 32 yard line.
A few plays later, the Braves again got possession of the ball, and made the most of it with Luke Bozard, a 185-pound running back, scoring a touchdown on a 12-yard scamper to the end zone.
That tightened the score to 27-24 with 83 seconds left in the game.
Everyone at Braves Stadium was expecting a third onside kick, and that’s exactly what happened.
But Whiteville pounced on the football, and with no timeouts lefts, Socastee could do nothing to stop the Wolfpack from kneeling down and running out the clock.
In what was to be a prelude of things to come, the Wolfpack’s star running back Shipman drew first blood, scoring a touchdown with six minutes and 20 seconds left in the first quarter. The point after was good, giving Whiteville an early 7-0 lead.
However, Socastee answered less than two minutes later after strong runs by Luke Bozard set the table for a running touchdown by 200-pound Braves wide receiver Wesley Eason. The point after was good, knotting the score at 7 with a little less than five minutes left in the first quarter.
The Braves and Wolfpack each went up and down the field in the first quarter, with neither team — which seemed at that point to be evenly matched — able to pull away in any sort of decisive manner.
Effective runs by the Wolfpack’s Shipman and 222-pound senior running back Brandon Tyson accounted for substantial yardage, but the Braves managed to keep them from scoring — thanks in part to sure-handed tackling by the Braves Carter Little, Arber Lakani and Trey Diggs.
In the second quarter, runs by the Braves’ Wojcik ended in a 19-yard Socastee field goal being kicked by Allen Hillegas. That gave Socastee its only lead of the night — 10-7 with 9 minutes left in the first half.
That lead was short-lived, however. The Wolfpack’s Shipman, who was fed the ball repeatedly throughout the contest, ran for a touchdown with a little over 4 minutes left in the half. That made the score Whiteville 14, Socastee 10.
A four-yard touchdown run by the Wolfpack’s Brandon Tyson stretched the lead to Whiteville 21, Socastee 10 with only 50 seconds left in the half.
The lead grew in the third quarter to Whiteville 27, Socastee 10, thanks to runs by Shipman and Tyson, which gave the Wolfpack the ball only three yards away from the end zone. From there, the Wolfpack ran the ball in for a score but the point after was blocked. Score: Whiteville 27, Socastee 10 with 4 minutes and 57 seconds left in the third quarter.
That same score would hold till the end of the third quarter and into the fourth quarter until Socastee tightened the score with long running and a touchdown by Wojcik and a 12-yard touchdown jaunt by Luke Bozard.
If nothing else, it was a moral victory for Socastee, which in the fourth quarter finally seemed to be on the verge of taking the game away from Whiteville.
But alas, time ran out on the Braves and their efforts,
Nevertheless, they have something to build on for their game next week against Sumter.
“I told ’em (Braves players) right after the game, ‘Listen, we don’t have moral victories, but we were down 27-10 in the fourth quarter against a defense that’s stymied us for half the game,’” Socastee coach Ben Hampton said.
“We put those two (fourth quarter) drives together. The defense did a heck of a job getting’ on and off the field. . . I can only imagine how much the time of possession was in their favor, and for our defense to go out there and get two huge stops at the end of the game… We got an onside kick, go down and score and make it count. And we have a different ballgame.”
Hampton said his team lost to a good group of players from North Carolina.
“Their kids played well. They’re coached well. They’ve got a great ball team. They’re undefeated. They’re 4-0 for a reason.
“We showed a lot of grit at the end but once again we’ve got to eliminate the mental mistakes and penalties,” Hampton said.
The Socastee head football coach noted that if Whiteville were in South Carolina, it would be a 3A team, not in 2A.
“They’re big farm boys,” he said of the players from Whiteville in Columbus County in eastern North Carolina. “They’ve got two options — farm or live in the weight room. . . They matched up with us well.
“I thought our guys held up well. To be our second game back, we couldn’t have asked for a better effort. When it mattered, when the game was on the line, our guys found a way to put it together and drive down the field and score two late touchdowns and keep us in the game. Unfortunately, we had to waste some timeouts on some silly stuff early in the second half or maybe we get the ball back there at the very end.”