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Ronnie Crump’s third touchdown catch of the night lifted Greensboro Smith to a 20-18, come-from-behind victory over High Point Central Friday in a game the Bison will surely remember as one that got away.

But one day that might remember it for what they took away it, too.

Wading through a sea of adversity — an inexperienced roster, a missing quarterback, a COVID-induced schedule that has them playing four games in 10 days — the Bison clawed and scratched and came oh so close to grabbing their second straight Mid-State 3-A victory at Simeon Stadium. That left Central Coach Jacob Sheffield feeling surprisingly upbeat, despite the final outcome that disappointed a spirited homecoming crowd.

“We didn’t do everything we were supposed and yeah, we probably should have won that one,” said Sheffield, “but a game like this tells me I ought never give up on this team’s heart. Coaches talking about leaving it all out there on the field. I think we really did tonight. You’re supposed to learn some life lessons in this game and I think tonight we did. You’d hope that 10 years from now they’re remembering what you can do you face a little adversity, that if you put your trust in best friends, things will work out. It was that kind of game.”

Central started slowly and spent much of the game backed up against its own goal line, trying to stave off another Smith score. But while they let the speedy Crump get away from them one time too many, the defense turned in what, in the end, has to be rated as a gritty performance. It overcame a blocked punt and a slew of long kick returns that give Smith premium field position. On three different occasions, Central held Smith without points after the Eagles had reached a first-and-goal situation, deep in Bison country.

And, as the clock was winding down to the end of the half, the Central defense came up with one of those plays that can turn a game around. On the half’s final play, Smith quarterback Jaiden Carr scrambled and was hit near midfield. The ball popped loose and a Central player grabbed it but couldn’t hold it. It squirted from his grasp and bounced right in front of senior linebacker Semaj Booker. He scooped it up, eluded one tackler, and raced 50 yards down the right sideline for a stunning score that pulled Central to within 14-12 as the half ended.

That helped, and after the defense stopped Smith twice deep in Bison territory to open the third quarter, Central delivered its biggest surprise of the night — a big play from its passing game.

Sheffield admits his team isn’t very dangerous through through the air, even less so with quarterback Aaron Wall, who missed Friday’s game due to what Sheffield termed family issues. But with Smith crowding the line with eight and sometimes even nine players to stop the Central ground game, Sheffield felt like “we had to take a shot.”

The “shot” was a wide receiver screen pass to senior Tyrese Rorie. It didn’t look promising at the start. A Smith broke so fast on the ball he nearly tipped it. Another Eagle was on top of Rorie before he could get going and appeared to have him wrapped up for a five-yard loss. But Rorie somehow escaped. He danced along the sideline for a few seconds, and as the Smith defense appeared to give up, zoomed down the sideline for a 71-yard touchdown, easily Central’s longest pass play of the year.

“We just haven’t had any sparks like that,” Sheffield said. “You do that and think you’re rolling.”

Less than seven minutes remained with Rorie crossed the goal line. And considering how Central’s defense was playing the 18-14 lead looked like it might stand.

But the Bison’s euphoria was short-lived.

One play after the kickoff, Carr found Crump flying down the right sidelines. He hit him for the third score of the night and that was that.

Central didn’t threaten again. It’s next possession ended quickly, and an interception killed any last-ditch hope.

Sophomore Zion McKoy led Central’s ground-based offense with 127 yards on 25 carries. D.J. Chatman added 71 yards rushing.

Smith’s Carr completed five of eight passes for 137 yards — all to Crump.

The victory lifted Smith, coached by former High Point Christian Coach Scott Bell, to 2-3 in the Mid-State 3-A and 3-5 overall. Central dropped to 1-3 in the league and 2-5 overall. The Bison complete the marathon run of games with a Tuesday night contest against Rockingham County and a Friday night match against Atkins.

The Bison went three and out on their opening possession, then punted to Smith which drove to midfield on three running plays and a Bison penalty. On first down from the Smith 49, Central call for an all-out blitz to slow the Eagles’ momentum. But Smith quarterback Jaiden Carr spotted it and actually took an extra step back before the snap. That gave him just enough time to loft a long pass down the middle to Ronnie Crump, all alone behind the thinly manned Central secondary, before the Central rusher arrived. Crump hauled it and pranced into the end zone to give Smith a 6-0 lead.

Central’s offense sputtered again and Smith was back in business following a 39-yard punt return by Darius Cross that gave the Eagles the ball at the Bison 27. But on second down Central cornerback Jason Harper stepped in front of Carr’s long toss down the right sideline, intercepting the ball at the two-yard line and killing the drive.

Central wasn’t out of the woods yet, however. A penalty moved the ball to the one, and two short runs only advanced it to three-yard line. Corey Crump hit D.j. Chatman with a swing pass on third down — Crump’s only completion of the first half — but Chatman slipped trying to cut and was downed for a safety. Smith was ahead 8-0.

The ensuing free kick gave Smith the ball in Central territory, but the defense rallied. A sack by Michael Smith and D.J. Wright put the Eagles behind the chains, and eventually forced a punt, just as the first quarter ended.

A new quarter and Central looked like a new team. The offense ripped off an 80-yard scoring drive in 9 plays, all inside zone runs by Zion McCoy or Chatman, until Crump finished it off with an option keeper from the seven. Central’s two-point conversion attempt, like Smith’s before it, failed and the Eagles led 8-6.

Smith continued to take advantage of good field position following a short kickoff and Kail Hairston’s 30-yard return. Starting from midfield, the Eagles moved smartly to the High Point 13. The Bison stiffened there, dropping Eagle running back Carlos Nealy for losses on back-to-back plays. But on third and 13, Carr faked a handoff and rolled the opposite way on a bootleg. The fakery froze Central’s secondary and Carr was able to toss a pass to Crump, running free in the right corner of the end zone.

Central once again stuffed the Eagles’ conversion attempt, Carlos Withers and Curt Ervin combining to smother Jamari Coles’ run at the two-yard line.

Smith led 14-6 and It looked like the first 24 minutes would end that way, but the last play told a different story.