Bucs escape on a block

Laney’s Sam Frank returns an interception meant for Ashley’s Charles Dent (background) during a Mideastern Conference game at Ashley on Friday, Nov. 1, 2013. (Photo by Jason A. Frizzelle)

Find the ball.

That's the only thought that mattered to Laney defensive lineman John Koonce as he lined up to defend a potential game-tying extra point by Ashley with 29 seconds to play. Koonce and the rest of the Buccaneers were unsure if Ashley would try a two-point conversion, as the Screaming Eagles had just called a timeout.

"I was thinking fake, but I was going to go for the ball," Koonce said. "I'm going to get through the line. If I gotta tackle somebody, I'm going to tackle somebody. If I've gotta block the ball, I'll block the ball. Whatever I've got to do."

Koonce burst through the left side of the line and blocked the point after attempt to preserve a 27-26 win for the Buccaneers in a Mideastern Conference football game that featured two touchdowns in the game's final three minutes.

The blocked kick came after Jesse Jewell's 6-yard touchdown run for Ashley (4-5, 2-3) that completed a 10-play, 71-yard drive in the final 2:21 of the game. A 37-yard pass from Shane Shepard to Charles Dent – two players hardly anybody expected to see on the field – set up the late score.

Ashley coach Tom Eanes called a timeout before the conversion but said he did not consider going for a potential game-winning two-point attempt.

"I wanted to put it in overtime," Eanes said. "And if we lost in overtime, we lost in overtime. I just called the timeout to make sure we were set."

Jeavonne Batts ran 31 times for 251 yards for Laney (6-4, 4-2), which used the 6-foot-1, 240-pound running back to set up the game-winning score. The Buccaneers started at the Ashley 28 after a short punt, and Batts had two runs for 16 yards; the latter put the ball at the Ashley 1-yard line.

Quarterback Tariq Lane then ran for a touchdown – his fourth of the day – to give the Laney the lead with 2:20 to play.

"We just tried to give Jeavonne the ball," Laney coach Greg Ditz said. "He was hungry, and we were just trying to give him the ball and pound it inside."

Batts fumbled on the previous drive but did not lose confidence when his name was called on the next possession.

"I just don't let it get to my head," Batts said of the fumble. "With mistakes, I'd rather learn from them than do them again."

Laney's running game dominated, but untimely passes and three turnovers prevented the Buccaneers from scoring more points. Lane ran for 95 yards but also lost a fumble and threw an interception.

Shepard, a senior who is an NC State baseball recruit, joined the Eagles during their bye week after starter Chris Kane suffered a season-ending injury two weeks ago. Dent was the starting tailback who had been out since breaking his ankle in Week 1.

The duo combined to give the Eagles a refreshing look on offense, as they moved the ball with much more ease than in previous weeks. Dent caught two passes for 57 yards and ran for a 17-yard touchdown. Shepard was 4-for-8 passing for 71 yards. Anthony Andrews ran for 128 yards splitting time with Shepard at quarterback.

"It did help us," Eanes said. "To think you could substitute quarterbacks in and out in the same series without causing any problems or rifts. And our kids accepted the change because they wanted to win."

The Eagles led 20-13 at halftime but lost fumbles on consecutive possessions to start the second half. A 9-yard touchdown by Lane tied the game late in the third quarter.

The loss was a heart-breaking one for the Eagles, who dropped below .500 for the first time since Week 3.

"It does (hurt) because we're trying to get better and we're trying to be a successful program," Eanes said. "We just need one time something – and you make your own breaks, and I know that – to go our way. It hurts."

Vince Nairn: 343-2262

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