Patriots end season on high note with win over Appalachian

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By Mike Goodson/Sports Correspondent

Halloween 2014 will long be remembered as the night of the “Thriller” at West End High in Walnut Grove. 

West End came back from a 14-0 deficit against Appalachian to secure a 30-27 victory and its second win of the season.

Just before kickoff, a storm knocked out the lights at Patriot Stadium.

The Patriots (2-8, 0-6 in Class 2A Region 7) were led by quarterback Hunter Grant, who was 5 of 11 in passing for 121 yards and rushed 29 times for 129 yards and a touchdown. Appalachian (1-9, 1-6 in Class 1A Region 5) jumped out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead. The Eagles forced a West End fumble deep in Patriot territory that the visitors turned into their first touchdown.

Appalachian then recovered an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, setting up a 3-yard Michael Payne touchdown run. The Eagles led 14-0 with 4:03 to play in the opening period. 

The Patriots drove 54 yards on their next possession and got on the scoreboard when Jordan Malin took a handoff 10 yards for a touchdown. The two-point try was stopped short, leaving the score 14-6 at the end of the first quarter.

Brett McCurry added the next points for the Patriots when he stripped the ball from Gladden and raced down the sideline into the end zone for a touchdown. Grant passed to Rhett Lister for the two-point conversion and a 14-14 tie with 10:21 to go in the first half.

Appalachian then drove 63 yards in nine plays to take a 21-14 lead but West End closed out the first half scoring with a 22-yard field goal from Payne Stancil. The Eagles held a 21-17 lead at the half.

West End took its first lead of the evening at 23-21 with 11:48 to go in the contest. Andre Little capped a 61-yard, six-play drive with a 6-yard touchdown run. The PAT was no good but the Pats held a two- point lead. 

The Eagles came roaring back, however, driving 80 yards in six plays to regain the lead at 27-23 with Brandon Reese scoring on a 1-yard run. 

But West End took the ensuing kickoff and drove 53 yards in 10 plays for the game-winning score on Grant’s 5-yard touchdown run. Stancil added the extra point for a 30-27 lead.

The win allowed the Patriots to end a difficult season on a winning note, giving them momentum as their young team heads into their first full off-season under head coach Kyle Davis. 

“It’s great; the kids deserve it, the seniors deserve it,” Davis said. “It was tough on these guys to come in as late as I did, not being able to get everything in that I wanted to do.

Michael Payne rushed for 147 yards on 22 carries and Brandon Reese added 144 on 20 carries for the Eagles. 

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