Eastern Randolph faces reigning state champion next

PJ WARD-BROWN | NORTH STATE JOURNAL Eastern Randolph’s Malachi Letterlough scores a touchdown against Draughn in the Class 1-A state playoffs in Ramseur. (PJ WARD-BROWN/NORTH STATE JOURNAL)

RAMSEUR — The state playoffs sure become interesting in a hurry for Eastern Randolph.

The Wildcats opened play in the Class 1-A West Region with a romp past No. 16 seed Draughn on Friday night.

That sends Eastern Randolph (10-0), the No. 1 seed, into a third-round matchup this week with visiting Murphy.

Murphy (8-4) is the reigning Class 1-A state champion.

“We’ll go to work on it,” Eastern Randolph coach Burton said of the assignment. “We just take one game at a time. Everybody says that, but we really do.”

Eastern Randolph, which received a bye in the first round, had an overwhelming performance in topping visiting Draughn by 55-20.

Quarterback Stratton Barwick put up significant numbers for the Wildcats by passing for four touchdowns and 261 yards. 

Elias Alston caught two of Barwick’s scoring passes and ended up with 159 receiving yards. He also returned a punt 45 yards for a touchdown.

Jake Fesmire hauled in the other two receiving touchdowns. He posted 85 receiving yards on three catches.

Running back Na’heim Lilly tacked on two touchdowns, gaining 140 rushing yards. Malachi Letterlough also ran for a touchdown.

“I thought offensively we really played well except for our own mistakes,” Cates said.

Lilly had 43- and 49-yard touchdown runs to help Eastern Randolph build a 21-0 lead through one quarter.

One of Barwick’s touchdown throws came on a 61-yard yard play to Alston.

So the big plays kept flowing for Eastern Randolph. 

“Too many penalties and we have to eliminate those,” Cates said. “The effort was there.”

The game against Draughn marked the first matchup of the season for Eastern Randolph against a Class 1-A opponent. That’s because it played larger schools in non-conference games and it’s a member of the Piedmont Athletic Conference, with all the other football-playing schools at the Class 2-A level.

Ninth-seeded Murphy defeated eighth-seeded Mountain Heritage 22-10 in the second round.

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