By BRIAN MEADOWS
Special to the LTN
OLIN –– Aided by two huge defensive plays down the stretch, North Lincoln spoiled homecoming night Friday at North Iredell.
An impressive goal-line stand in the final minute forced overtime, and the Knights scored first in the extra period then created a turnover to seal a 26-20 win.
It was the first North Piedmont 3A/4A Conference win for North Lincoln (2-5, 1-2), which improved to 5-0 all-time against the Raiders (4-3, 1-2).
Chase Caldwell connected with Taylor Woodby for a 13-yard touchdown pass on the second overtime play. The Raiders blocked the ensuing extra-point kick, leaving them with the opportunity to win the game on a TD and extra-point of their own.
But running back Marquel Mullins lost the handle on the football on North Iredell’s first overtime play. The Knights, who hit Mullins in the backfield, recovered the ball to end the game.
The Raiders squandered a golden opportunity to win in regulation. They took the ball at their own 48 with 4:10 left and, keyed by a pair of 22-yard runs from Mullins and Brian Ellis, marched down field.
Faced with fourth-and-goal at the 1 with 1:04 remaining, North Iredell called timeout.
Garrett Harshbarger was unable to punch it into the end zone when the players returned to the field. North Lincoln’s defense took over on downs and bled the clock to send the game to overtime.
North Lincoln marched down field on the game’s first possession. Matt Koe toted the ball into the end zone from 5 yards out to cap an 11-play, 64-yard drive that gave the Knights a 7-0 lead.
Hayes Irving’s 29-yard field goal punctuated the Knights’ second possession, pushing their lead to 10-0 just 5 seconds into the second quarter.
The Raiders answered. Kobe Campbell’s 19-yard run on third-and-11 gave them a first down at the North Lincoln 38. Two plays later, Harshbarger hooked up with Mullins for a 31-yard touchdown on a play-action pass.
Trey Freeman quickly regained a two-score lead for the Knights when he returned the ensuing kickoff 86 yards for a score that made it 17-6.
Harshbarger found Mullins again on play action, and their 30-yard TD connection brought the Raiders back to within 17-13 with 4:35 left in the half.
Irving’s 31-yard field goal sent the Knights to the locker room with a 20-13 lead.
Campbell’s 9-yard scoring run on the opening drive of the second half helped North Iredell tie the game at 20.
Mullins finished with 82 yards on 14 carries. Ellis added 74 yards on 13 carries. Harshbarger was 4 of 8 passing for 127 yards and the two TD strikes to Mullins.
Freeman paced the Knights ground attack with 63 yards on 11 carries.
They are 2-0 all-time in overtime, with their last OT game coming in 2004.
LTN Sports Editor Ryan Herman contributed to this article.