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TAKE IT DOWN TO THE WIRE: Red Level outlasts Pleasant Home in region battle

The Red Level Tigers (2-1, 2-0) were able to outlast the Pleasant Home Eagles (0-3, 2-0) for a 15-14 victory Friday night on Bobby Dye Field in Red Level.

Red Level got the ball to start the night, but the drive only lasted a few plays before the Tigers turned it over on downs.

Pleasant Home took over, but had to punt after the Tigers’ defense came up with a big stop.

Red Level got the ball on their own 12-yard line, but fumbled the ball on the second play from scrimmage.

Pleasant Home’s Josh Ruth scooped up the loose ball and returned it for a touchdown.

The Eagles went for the two-point conversion and Jon Cooley connected with Austin Kelley to put Pleasant Home on top 8-0 with 4:56 left in the opening period.

Red Level got the ball back, but was forced to punt following a three-and-out.

After getting the ball back following a turnover on downs, Red Level’s offense began to march down the field.

Demarcus Johnson picked up a first down off of an 8-yard run and then Parker Spears scrambled for another first down on the next play.

Facing a fourth-and-long, Spears scrambled 15 yards to pick up another Tiger first down.

A few plays later, the Tigers were in another fourth down situation and Spears found an opening for a 15-yard touchdown run.

Red Level went for the two-point conversion and Spears found Kade Green in the end zone to tie the game with 5:54 left in the first half.

Pleasant Home got the ball back, but the possession didn’t last long as Chance Russell picked off a pass on the first play of the drive to give Red Level the ball back.

Red Level had to punt three plays later, but got the ball right back on a Pleasant Home fumble.

The Tigers needed just two plays on the next drive to find the end zone as Johnson broke off a 9-yard touchdown run.

Zavier Phillips tacked on the extra point to put Red Level on top 15-8 with 3:28 left in the first half.

Pleasant Home got the ball to start the second half and began to move the ball down the field.

However, Russell ended the drive when he came up with his second interception of the game.

Red Level then put together a strong drive, but turned the ball over on downs.

Pleasant Home’s next possession lasted just two plays as the Eagles saw another series end with a fumble.

Red Level didn’t keep the ball long as they fumbled it away on the first play of the next drive.

The Eagles took over, but again the drive ended with a fumble.

After forcing a turnover on downs, the Eagles got some life going entering the final quarter of play.

Brenden Douglas picked up 20 yards on the first play of the drive and then Eric Bradley ripped off a long run to put the Eagles in scoring position.

On fourth-and-7, Cooley connected with Ruth for a 15-yard touchdown to bring the game within one point.

The Eagles elected to go for the lead with a two-point conversion, but the Red Level defense stepped up to the challenge and shut down the attempt.

With 7:02 left in the game, Red Level was on top 15-14.

Pleasant Home had a couple more opportunties, but the Tigers held them off to pick up a 15-14 win.

“Coach (Rick) Mercer does a good job getting those guys ready,” Red Level head coach Kenny Skipper said of Pleasant Home. “They played hard and got after us.”

Skipper said he was pleased with the way his team played.

“I will be honest with you our defense brought us out of it tonight,” Skipper said. “We sputtered all night on offense. We didn’t play really good on offense. We’ve got some things we have to shore up there, but these guys have played their butts off for two weeks. The same guys that play on offense are the same ones that play on defense. We’ve just got some things we have to correct up front and get a little better over there and just keep playing hard. It’s a process.”

Mercer said he knew it was going to be a battle coming into the game.

“They are a good team,” Mercer said. “I knew it was going to be a battle. I knew it was going to come down to four quarters and it did. We had a chance to win and missed it there at the end. We just have to make plays when we have the opportunity. Our offense isn’t built to overcome first-and-15 right off the bat, but I was proud of the guys for battling back in the second half.”

Pleasant Home remains on the road next week when they travel to McKenzie to take on the Tigers.

Red Level will be back at home next week when the Kinston Bulldogs come to town.