OLIN--North Iredell wound up on the wrong side of a did-that-just-happen moment Friday. Well, make that Saturday.
On a night when kickoff was delayed nearly three hours, Wilkes Central walked off the field at 12:30 a.m. Saturday morning with a 15-12 season-opening win in tow.
The Eagles went deep into the playbook to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Trailing 12-7 after just yielding the go-ahead touchdown, Wilkes Central got the ball at its 27. Only 1 minute and 6 seconds remained.
North Iredell defended the Eagles' first play well, giving up just three yards on a short pass.
The next play left the home side stunned and the visiting side with newfound jubilation. The Eagles pitched the ball to Cortlan Clark on a reverse. He drew the attention while Ethan Dobson slipped undetected down field behind the Raider defense.
Wide open, Dobson hauled in Clark's pass. He raced to the end zone for a 70-yard touchdown reception. Wilkes Central's JoRaye Morrison punched in the two-point conversion with 42.9 seconds to go.
"It was just one of those trick plays, a reverse pass," North Iredell coach David Lewis said. "I thought their receiver sold well that he was blocking before taking off."
Lewis refused to blame the loss solely on that defensive lapse.
"There were plenty of plays to be made," he said.
Quarterback Joe Gaither's 18-yard scramble coupled with his 16-yard completion to Fabian Summers helped the Raiders move the ball to the Eagles' 23-yard line with 2.8 seconds left.
A botched extra point and a missed 39-yard field goal earlier in the game left North Iredell deciding against attempting a 40-yard field goal to tie.
On the run, Gaither threw the ball toward the end zone but it fell incomplete a few yards shy of the goal line to end the game.
The game featured a 7:30 p.m. start time but was delayed by storms in the area.
Players finally hit the field for warmups at 9:35 p.m. The game got under way a 10:15 p.m.
Due to the late start, 10-minute quarters were implemented instead of 12.
Wilkes Central shot itself in the foot after reaching the North Iredell 9 on its opening drive. A penalty pushed the Eagles back to the 20 and then a high snap set them back another 15 yards.
They redeemed themselves on the second drive. Morrison scampered for a 29-yard gain. He fumbled before hitting the ground, but teammate Alex Nichols was there to cover it up. Quarterback Josh Pack ran the ball in from the North Iredell 5 to make it 7-0 with 1:07 left in the first quarter.
Cody Nicholson leaped to make a difficult catch from Joe Gaither for a 27-yard gain in the second quarter. That was the lone offensive highlight in the first half for the Raiders.
BY THE NUMBERS
Hunter Bolden made a 12-yard touchdown catch going to the ground, and that score propelled the Raiders to a 12-7 advantage with 1:15 left in the game.
Nicholson finished with three catches for 84 yards. His 24-yard touchdown reception on a tunnel screen pass from Gaither brought North Iredell within 7-6 at the 7:12 mark of the third quarter.
Gaither was 10 of 23 passing for 142 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Summers carried the ball 18 times for 70 yards.
Morrison and Pack finished with 69 and 65 yards rushing, respectively, for Wilkes Central.
Of the Eagles' 216 total yards, 32 percent came on the game-changing trick play. North Iredell gave up five plays of 11 or more yards in the first half but dominated the second half up until that point. Wilkes Central ran only 13 plays after the break.
The Raiders (0-1) travel to East Bend next Friday for a nonconference game against Forbush. Wilkes Central (1-0) hosts Alexander Central the same night.
WC--Josh Pack 5 run (Bryan Francis kick), 1:07.
NI--Cody Nicholson 24 pass from Joe Gaither (point after failed), 7:12.
NI--Hunter Bolden 15 pass from Gaither (run failed), 1:15.
WC--Ethan Dobson 70 pass from Cortlan Clark (JoRaye Morrison run), :42.9.