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Gut-Check Performance

Northeastern turns away D.H. Conley at goal line for the win w/Video

Northeastern 42 D.H. Conley 34

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Northeastern running back Traveon Freshwater (with ball) scored three touchdowns against D.H. Conley, Friday.

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By Malcolm Shields
Sports Editor

Sunday, August 19, 2018

GREENVILLE — In a contest that was filled with big plays, the biggest one of all was made by one of the smaller players on the Northeastern roster.

With the Eagles holding an eight-point lead and D.H. Conley on Northeastern’s 4-yard line with two seconds remaining in the game, the Eagles needed one more stop.

Defensive back Holden Hodge’s game-sealing tackle at the 1-yard line on Conley running back Isaiah Gamble sent the Eagles defense running to its sideline in celebration as NHS secured a 42-34 victory at D.H. Conley High School on Friday night.

Hodge, listed at 5-foot-7, said that during the play he knew that he and his teammates needed to get a stop.

What was going through Hodge’s mind on the play?

“I need to get him. I need to get him,” Hodge said. “I ran over there... and I hit him.”

When Hodge made contact with Gamble, he knew that the Vikings running back was short of the goal line.

When the official ran in from the sideline pointing to the ground to indicate that Gamble was down and short of the end zone, Hodge, who also recorded an interception in the contest, said that his adrenaline was rushing through his body.

A drive that started at D.H. Conley’s 20-yard line with less than two minutes remaining in the game ended a yard short for the Vikings.

“They came to play when it was needed,” Northeastern head football coach Antonio Moore said about his defense. “If you come to play when it is needed and you make a big play, it cancels out all of that other stuff. We came up with the win.”

The other stuff Moore referred to was the multiple big plays the Eagles surrendered on defense.

The NHS coach noted that it was a great game.

There were multiple times in the game in which Northeastern (1-0) made key defensive plays.

The second biggest one came with less than four minutes remaining and NHS and Conley tied at 34-34.

The Vikings (0-1) had the ball at the Eagles 13-yard line on 4th-and-1.

The Eagles defense was able to get a defensive stop on a running play to end the scoring threat.

A few plays later, Northeastern quarterback Aaron Harris ran to his right and sprinted down the Northeastern sideline for an 83-yard touchdown to give NHS the lead for good.

“The kid stepped up [Friday night],” Moore said of Harris.

The coach added that Harris, a senior, filled the role that other Northeastern quarterback have done in recent years.

“Mentally, he is tough,” Moore said.

The Eagles lost at least three potential touchdowns as NHS lost three fumbles.

Northeastern was in or near the red zone three times and ended up with no points because of turnovers.

“We were fortunate enough to be in position to be in the game” Moore said.

D.H. Conley gashed the Eagles with big plays early in the contest.

The Vikings took a 13-0 lead following a 78-yard touchdown catch and run by C.J. Johnson and a 31-yard touchdown run by Gamble.

Moore noted that after falling behind by 13 in the first quarter was when they knew the running game would power the offense.

“We had to try to find something that would work,” he said.

NHS scored 28 consecutive points as senior running back Traveon Freshwater scored on runs of 44, six and 15 yards in the quarter.

Tyquan Mercer scored his first of two touchdowns in the game on a 14-yard run.

Following a NHS fumble recovery on defense near midfield, that led to Freshwater’s 15-yard score.

NHS led 28-13 after one quarter.

The Vikings made it a 28-20 contest after a Nick Hamilton screen pass to Johnson, an ECU commit, that Johnson took 80-yards for a touchdown.

NHS responded with a Mercer 44-yard touchdown to take a 34-20 lead. Hamilton connected with Matthew Rostar for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 34-27 at halftime.

Conley tied the game at 34-all in the third on a Hamilton screen pass to Nyck Brown that went 55 yards to paydirt.

The result in the season opener was a gut-check performance for NHS, which has another test against Norview (Va.) for its home opener in Elizabeth City next week.

“There is no limit to how good this team can be,” Moore said.

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