ECRU – North Pontotoc finally got its thrilling finish.
The Vikings, who lost three games this season in the final two minutes, found a way to manufacture its own heart-stopping conclusion with a 51-50 double-overtime win over in-county rival Pontotoc.
The win also clinched the fourth playoff seed in Region 1-4A and ensured the first appearance by North Pontotoc (6-4, 2-3) in the postseason since 2008, when it was a Class 3A school.
North Pontotoc will face Lafayette (11-0), the Region 2-4A champ in the opening round of playoffs on Friday.
On Senior Night in Ecru, it was North Pontotoc’s junior running backs who provided the lift in the highest scoring match of the season for both schools.
North’s Mitchell Cunningham had 26 carries for 245 yards and three TDs and fellow junior Shemiah Carter ran 11 times for 64 yards and a pair of TDs. Carter also scored on a 19-yard reception, which opened the scoring with 4:42 in the first quarter.
“I was determined that they weren’t going to bring me down,” said Cunningham, whose two fourth-quarter TDs kept it close in North’s first-ever win against its in-county rival. “I’ve had a couple of bad games lately and I’m glad I could turn it around.”
Pontotoc tied it at 36-all with 40 seconds remaining in regulation when Rashad Dixon connected with Shaq Crayton on a 29-yard pass to push the Warriors (5-6, 1-4) to the Vikings’ 3 and Maurice Berry finished with a run up the middle.
After the teams traded scores in first overtime, Randall Crayton scored on an 8-yard sprint and Michael Bounds added the point-after to give Pontotoc a 50-43 lead.
“We had a chance there at the end, but this was like a lot of other games for us this year,” said Pontotoc head coach Charlie Dampeer, whose squad will miss the playoffs for the first time in three seasons. “And we just couldn’t stop number 42 (Cunningham).”
Carter scored on a 10-yard run on fourth down on North’s following possession and Bailey ran in for the conversion – which set off a celebration at midfield.
“We were getting tired, and when we scored that last one, I asked them if they wanted to win it or tie it,” said first-year North Pontotoc coach Brian Sutton. “We just got up on them and didn’t quit.”
Jay Tidwell/Special to the Journal