INDIAN TRAIL – Porter Ridge couldn’t overcome a sluggish start and fell 32-14 to unbeaten East Forsyth in the 4-A Western Regional finals on Dec. 7.
The Pirates first possession resulted in minus-10 yards in three plays, but the Pirate defense held tall, stopping the East Forsyth offense on downs deep in Porter Ridge territory.
However, with the ball on their 2-yard line, the Pirates were smothered into a safety. East Forsyth would add a score to go up 9-0, but after Porter Ridge punted for a second time they had gained minus-14 yards total on their first three possessions.
After the Pirate defense held again, East Forsyth’s Khalid Martin rumbled 73 yards on a fake punt to get the Eagles up, 16-0.
East Forsyth would add a field goal for a 19-0 lead before Porter Ridge quarterback Grayson McCall got the Pirates on the board with a 8-yard rushing touchdown.
With five minutes to go in the third quarter, Porter Ridge backup running back Brandon Perry got the Pirates to within 19-14 after a 13-yard rushing score closed the gap, but East Forsyth would regain all of the lost momentum by returning the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown and then add another late score for the final margin.
With star running back Jaylen Coleman (nine carries, 22 yards) limited and backup Malcolm Hines unable to play due to injury, Perry ran well, gaining 85 yards on 11 carries.
McCall ran 13 times for 57 yards, but was 2-for-3 for three yards and an interception through the air as East Forsyth crowded the box and limited the depleted Pirate run game to 210 yards on 42 carries while the Eagles scored three rushing touchdowns, ran for 288 yards and passed for over 100 on the night.
The loss stops Porter Ridge just one win shy of returning to the state finals for the third time in program history. The 10 wins are also the most for the Pirates since 2012, their last trip to the finals.
The Pirates will lose 19 seniors including Coleman, the Duke commit who was named the Southwestern 4A’s Offensive Player of the Year, and Jared Wheatley, the conference’s Special Teams Player of the Year.
Also gone are Coastal Carolina commit McCall and Hines along with all-conference selections Cole Cimino, Will McDonald and Chase Hagler on the offensive line and Sam Beeman at tight end among others.
However, all-conference picks Davidson Carroll (junior defensive end) and Dylan Burdette (junior linebacker) will return to help lead the Pirates in 2019.