MJ

Enterprise freshman Mykel Johnson (22) races to a 66-yard touchdown to open the game against North Miami Beach. 

North Miami Beach upends Enterprise in heartbreaking finish

By Josh Boutwell

sports@southeastsun.com

The North Miami Beach Chargers (1-0) scored in the final minutes to defeat the Enterprise Wildcats (0-1) by a score of 34-31 in the debut of new Wildcat coach Rick Darlington at home on Friday, Aug. 23.

After being dominated in the first half, the Chargers scored 22 points in the fourth quarter to pick up the win.

With Enterprise leading 31-28, and just under three minutes left in the game, North Miami Beach connected on a 33-yard pass to get the ball down to the Enterprise 3-yard line.

Two plays later, the Chargers punched the ball in for a 1-yard touchdown run with 1:29 left to take their first lead of the game 34-31. The Chargers attempted a two-point conversion but the Wildcats managed to hold.

On Enterprise’s ensuing possession, quarterback Jackson Darlington threw three consecutive incompletions to bring up a huge fourth-and-long with under a minute remaining.

Jackson Darlington rolled away from pressure and lofted a pass to a leaping Terrell Hudson, who then raced 26 yards. A North Miami Beach facemask penalty moved the Wildcats inside the Charger 20-yard line.

After a short completion to running back Josh McCray – and the clock ticking – Jackson Darlington heaved a jump ball to wingback Jalen Cunningham in the end zone, but a Charger defender wrestled the pass away for an interception to seal the game.

“Obviously it was a very disappointing game,” Enterprise coach Rick Darlington said. “We jumped out and had a heck of a first quarter, and then just totally stopped playing football. It was a total implosion in the second half. That doesn’t mean we don’t still love (the players) but we just have got to do better.

“The best way to win a game is not to lose it and we lost it. It makes me sick to lose but you have to earn the right to win and we didn’t earn it.”

The Wildcats started off the game just as they did the spring game, against Park Crossing, when freshman running back Mykel Johnson took a simple handoff 66 yards for a touchdown with 11:44 left in the first quarter.

After a McCray two-point conversion, the Wildcats led 8-0, but that score wouldn’t stay that way for long.

On North Miami Beach’s first play of the game, the Chargers pulled out a double pass and scored on an 84-yard touchdown pass with 10:46 left to cut the Enterprise lead to 8-6 following a failed two-point attempt.

Enterprise then proceeded to march right back down the field and Jackson Darlington capped off the 9-play, 78-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge. Jackson Darlington then punched in the two-point conversion and extended Enterprise’s lead to 16-6 with 6:27 left in the opening period.

After the Wildcat defense forced a turnover on downs, Johnson scored his second touchdown of the game on a 39-yard run with 24 seconds left in the first quarter. The Wildcats booted a PAT and led 23-6.

As both defenses seemed to settle down in the second quarter, the two sides exchanged punts. Then, Enterprise turned the ball over on downs inside North Miami Beach territory late in the half.

The Wildcat defense stepped up again, however, when defensive back Romaine McFarland made a leaping interception. Enterprise took a 23-6 lead into halftime.

After it seemed the Wildcats had forced another punt to open the second half, a penalty gave North Miami Beach new life on its first drive of the half. The Chargers scored on a leaping 21-yard touchdown pass with 7:37 left in the third quarter to cut the lead to 23-12 following a failed two-point try.

Neither offense could gain any traction for the remainder of the third quarter and then McCray stepped in front of North Miami Beach pass and returned the interception 20 yards for a touchdown to extend the Wildcat lead to 31-12 following the two-point conversion.

The fourth quarter, however, was North Miami Beach’s. The Chargers opened the period with a 3-yard touchdown run with 12:00 left and then converted the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 31-20.

After another Enterprise punt, the Chargers pulled off another double pass, but this time McCray was able to chase down the receiver before he could score. North Miami Beach still managed to punch it in a few minutes later on a 2-yard touchdown run, though, with 7:11 left. The two-point conversion cut Enterprise’s lead to 31-28. Enterprise went three-and-out on its next drive leading to the frustrating finish.

In the first half Enterprise racked up 263 yards of offense – 198 of that coming in the first quarter – compared to North Miami Beach’s 179 total yards. In the second half, Enterprise gained just 181 yards of offense compared to the Chargers who totaled 235 yards, 175 of those coming in the fourth quarter.

Another big problem for the Wildcats were penalties, as Enterprise racked up 14 penalties to the tune of 129 yards, while North Miami Beach was penalized 13 times for 96 yards.

The referee’s flag party came to a bizarre conclusion late in the third quarter when an Enterprise player was ejected following a personal foul and then the Enterprise sideline was also penalized 15 yards for a personal foul. These penalties came after Enterprise had driven inside Charger territory late following a 20-yard McCray run.

Enterprise went from facing a first-and-10 in North Miami Beach territory to first-and-41 back on the Enterprise 26 yard line.

“There were lots of reasons why we lost but there’s no reason to make excuses,” Darlington said. “We just had too many mistakes on offense. This offense isn’t built to get behind the chains. We just had way too many self-inflicted wounds.

“Defensively, (North Miami Beach) had all of their success pretty much on jump balls, which is what they did in their preseason game. We knew what they were going to do but we just didn’t defend it.”

In total, Enterprise ran for 343 yards along with 101 yards through the air, putting together a staggering 444 yards of total offense. North Miami Beach, however, totaled 414 yards with 334 of those yards coming through the air on just 17 completions.

The Wildcat offense was led by Johnson who rushed for 158 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries, while McCray rushed for 59 yards on 10 carries. McCray also caught three passes for 27 yards. Johnson also returned three kickoffs for 61 yards.

Hudson caught two passes for 74 yards, while Jackson Darlington completed 5-of-13 passes for 101 yards and an interception. He also rushed for 18 yards and another touchdown on 10 carries.

McCray led the Enterprise defense with 5.5 tackles, 0.5 tackles-for-loss and an interception return for a touchdown, while cornerback Jaylon Webster had seven tackles and one pass breakup. KD McCray had 5.5 tackles and 0.5 sack, while Robert Ellis had four tackles, two tackles-for-loss and a sack. DJ Turner had five tackles, one tackle-for-loss and one sack.

Sophomore Mar’Shawn Fitzpatrick had one tackle and three pass breakups.

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