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Patriots leave no doubt late for big upset

Devin Hansley carries the ball as Wallace-Rose Hill high school hosts Pender in the first round of the NCHSAA 1AA football tournament Friday Nov. 2, 2012. (Photo by Staff photo by PAUL STEPHEN)

WALLACE | Pender did the unthinkable.

Not only did the Patriots upset rival Wallace-Rose Hill, but pulled away for a 40-20 win in the opening round of the Class 1AA high school football playoffs Friday night at Thell Overman Field.

The formula was a heavy dose of the option and stellar fourth-quarter defense to eliminate the perennial power Bulldogs.

Sam Dixon put an exclamation mark on the victory, with a 7-yard run with 1:16 left to end a five-game losing streak to the Bulldogs.

"Their offensive line wore us out,'' Bulldogs coach Joey Price said. "It seemed to me their kids wanted it more.''

Pender (6-5) rushed for 384 yards. Fullback Sam Dixon ran for 181 yards and three touchdowns, while quarterback Nicky Wells had 135 and a pair of touchdowns.

"We pretty much stuck with our script,'' second-year Pender coach Tony Hudson said. "We just played our brand of ball.

"We didn't try and do anything tricky. We were able to win it in the trenches.''

In the teams' regular- season meeting, the Bulldogs (7-5) dominated the line of scrimmage in the second half with assignment defense to beat the Patriots 28-14 in Burgaw.

In this game, the Patriots had their way from start to finish. Hudson said his strategy was utilizing ball-control and not making mistakes. Pender had one turnover.

"Nobody gave us a chance, but we knew we were close against them the first time and we knew we had the ability to get it done,'' Hudson said. "So it did not surprise us.''

For three quarters the game was far from lopsided, though. Dijon Kenan gave the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead slightly less than 8 minutes into the game.

Less than two minutes later, Dixon answered with a 23-yard run and conversion run and then a 49-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

The Bulldogs tied at the game 14-14 at intermission on Emmitt Herring's 6-yard pass to Marquel Newkirk with 1:23 left in the half.

The second half started with a pair of quick scores: Devin Hansley returning the third-quarter kickoff 83 yards for a Pender TD before Quayle Robinson's 5-yard run tied it again at 20-20 less than 3 minutes into the second half.

Then the Patriots took control early in the fourth quarter on Nicky Wells' 1-yard TD run and his 45-yard option keeper for another score with 5:49 left in the game.

"We didn't know if we were going to win or lose, but we pushed harder this week in practice than ever before,'' Wells said. "We knew people doubted us and we wanted to prove them wrong. That is what drove us.''