By RYAN HERMAN
DENVER –– East Lincoln was challenged, but the defending state champion didn’t back down.
Chazz Surratt ran for 162 yards and accounted for four touchdowns, and Coleton Banks rushed for 136 yards and his first score of the season as the Mustangs rallied to beat Bandys 35-27 in the first round of the NCHSAA state 2AA playoffs on Friday night.
The Mustangs (8-4) will host Maiden, a 35-0 winner over Forbush, in a second round game this week.
Surratt’s 4-yard run with 2:14 left in the third quarter put third-seeded East Lincoln on top for good after it fell behind 27-21 less than 2 minutes earlier.
It was the first time the Mustangs had trailed since falling behind 10-7 to Bunker Hill in the third quarter of a Southern District 7 Athletic 2A Conference game on Oct. 11.
“As soon as (the Trojans) scored and they went up one, that’s what I said to myself: Are we going to fold or are we going to, you know? I didn’t know what we were going to do right there,” East Lincoln coach Mike Byus said.
“They did, they came back and responded.”
Surratt’s third and final rushing TD Friday gave his team a 28-27 lead following back-to-back scores by the Trojans (5-7), who used consecutive TD runs of 2 and 9 yards by Quiante Derr to turn a 21-13 halftime deficit into the lead.
Bandys, a pass-heavy team that was held to 4 yards rushing in the first half, hit the Mustangs in the mouth with the run in the second.
The Trojans made it 21-19 on a 2-yard run by Derr 3 minutes into the third quarter on a drive that featured six runs and one pass –– a 44-yard hookup between Dillon Street and quarterback Logan Beegle that set up the score.
Bandys forced East Lincoln into a three-and-out on its next series, then marched 81 yards in eight plays, including a 45-yard run by Street that led to Derr’s 9-yard score.
With 4:08 left in the third quarter the Trojans led the Mustangs 27-21, seven weeks after they were embarrassed by East Lincoln 55-26 in the teams’ SD-7 opener. Bandys gave up 27 points in the third quarter alone in that game.
This time it was the fourth quarter where the Mustangs made their move.
“Horseshoes and hand grenades, that’s what they always say,” Bandys coach Trent Lowman said. “We told them that, ‘If you can honestly say that you gave everything you had, then we’re going to be in position to win the football game,’ and we were right there.”
The Mustangs were just too much.
Once Bandys began to run the football against the league’s best team at stopping the run –– a steady downpour may have necessitated the change in play calling –– the Mustangs put the ball into the hands of Surratt.
The Division I recruit led his team 65 yards on seven carries, two that went for 24 and 29 yards.
On second-and-goal from the 4 Surratt finished the drive with a TD that put his team back on top late in the third.
Three snaps later Damarius Valentine picked off Beegle for the second time, and although the turnover didn’t lead to any points –– the Mustangs went three-and-out –– it helped bring some life to an otherwise punchless defense that was missing four starters, including three-way senior Billy Misenheimer.
After the punt, East Lincoln’s defense forced Bandys to do the same. Fifty-five yards on three carries by Banks, sandwiched around a short run by Surratt, helped put the Mustangs into the second round and forced the Trojans to go back to the air.
“When we got that score and got up eight, they had to change their run-game philosophy. They were getting some yards running, hitting us in the mouth a little bit, moving the chains. They went down and scored and took the lead. We had that one key drive, then when we got up eight they had to come out of what they were doing just for time’s sake,” Byus said.
“I’m proud of our kids. We had three linebackers not even dress, and our free safety was out.”
Banks, a sophomore who missed the first four games of the season due to an injury, scored on a 15-yard run with 8:01 to play for his first TD this year.
Sophomore kicker Blake Strupp was 5-for-5 on PATs, and improved to 54-for-61 on the year.
“Coleton is an explosive runner. He just needs to get his rhythm down,” Byus said. “When you’ve got a kid like (Surratt) that’s got so many touches sometimes your running back’s taken out of the game a little bit, but he responded with some pretty big runs tonight.”
Beegle completed 12 of his 26 pass attempts for 136 yards and the two interceptions. Derr had a team-high 57 rush yards on 20 carries, and Travis Kiser converted field goals of 36 and 38 yards in the first half.
But Surratt, who had TD runs of 8, 44 and 4 yards and threw a 6-yard scoring pass to Austin Buchanan in the second quarter, and Banks were too much.
“Heart. Heart and effort,” said Lowman, when asked to summarize his team this season. “We had to win two to get into the playoffs, and the guys came down and did it and they never gave up. It would have been easy for our guys this week to remember getting beat 55-26 and to come over here and lay an egg but they didn’t. They accepted the challenge and gave everything they had.”