LAURINBURG — South Central’s best season in school history came to an end against one of the most successful programs in state history.
The high-scoring Falcons, seeded fourth in the east, couldn’t match the power of top-seeded Scotland County on a cold Friday night at Pate Stadium and fell 74-34 in the third round of the Class 4-A state playoffs. South Central (10-3) set school records for wins and the deepest advance in the playoffs this year.
The Fighting Scots (11-1), who have not lost since the season-opener, advance to play second-seeded and undefeated Wilmington Hoggard, a 20-8 winner over sixth-seeded Heritage. Scotland County has not won a state title in six years but has won seven consecutive conference titles and a state-record 37 consecutive conference games.
Friday’s game pitted two prolific offenses with South Central averaging 52.5 points and Scotland County 50.8. The Fighting Scots came in with four consecutive games of scoring at least 63 points and set a single-game school record when Joseph McKoy scored on a 49-yard run and Tripp Wells added the point-after kick.
Even without Georgia recruit Zamir White, who sat out with a knee injury, the Fighting Scots piled up yards and points behind a massive offensive line. Senior quarterback Warren Bell and running back Shyheam McQueen, a 6-1, 220-pound junior, shredded the Falcons’ defense for nine first-half touchdowns and a 60-20 lead.
Bell ran 290 yards in the first half, scoring five rushing touchdowns and throwing for two more. He finished with 380 yards — breaking the school’s quarterback rushing record of 311 set in 2013 by Jaylend Ratliffe — and six rushing touchdowns. McQueen ran for two scores.
South Central senior quarterback Dexter McDuffie threw for 290 yards and five touchdowns but was intercepted four times. He also rushed 18 times for 95 yards. Jeremy Lewis (10 catches, 145 yards) and Emannuel Lewis (five catches 100 yards) each had a pair of touchdown receptions.
The playoff road test could not have started much worse for South Central, which trailed 14-0 after Scotland County’s first two offensive plays. The Scots scored on all four of its first-quarter possessions to lead 28-14 and nine of its 10 first-half possessions.
McKoy returned the opening kickoff to the South Central 5, and McQueen darted up the middle for a 7-0 lead just 19 seconds into the game. After the Falcons failed to pick up a first down, a quick kick was blocked, giving the Scots possession at the South Central 41. Bell needed just one play to score for a 14-0 lead.
McQueen’s 32-yard run finished off a 93-yard drive on the Scots’ next possession to make it 20-0. McDuffie then got the Falcons on the board with a 61-yard pass to Emannuel Lewis, but Scotland County quickly answered with Bell’s 46-yard run for a 28-6 lead.
McDuffie threw a 75-yard pass to Jeremy Lewis to set up a 12-yard scoring pass to Emannuel Lewis. A pass to Emannuel Lewis made it 28-14.
Scotland County erupted for 32 second-quarter points. Bell scampered 3 and 71 yards for a 40-14 lead before McDuffie hit Jeremy Lewis with a 3-yard slant pass one play after converting fourth down.
A penalty wiped out Bruce Wall’s kickoff return, but the Scots scored in two plays with Bell running 42 yards to the 8 then scoring on the next play for a 46-20 lead.
Another penalty wiped out Davon Ratliffe’s 46-yard interception return for Scotland County, but Bell teamed up with Wall for his first touchdown pass covering 23 yards. McQueen ran in the two-point conversion for a 54-20 lead with 36 seconds left in the half, but they still were not done.
After an interception by Tyshuon Thomas, Bell threw an 18-yard pass to Khalil Smith 14.3 seconds before halftime.
South Central pieced together an impressive drive to start the third period, but McDuffie was picked off in the end zone. Bell quickly cashed it in with a 78-yard run for a 67-20 lead, putting the running clock into effect.
Marqwues Wilson picked off McDuffie pass near midfield, but Tylando Pinckney scooped up a fumble by third-string running back Isaiah Wilson and returned it to the 3, setting up a touchdown pass from McDuffie to Jalen Wilson. McCoy answered for the Scots with a 49-yard run, and the PAT kick set the school record with 74 points.
McDuffie’s 33-yard pass to Jeremy Lewis capped the scorefest.