CHAPEL HILL, NC (WECT) - East Duplin's first loss of the 2017 football season could not have come at a worse time. The Panthers fell to the Hibriten Panthers in the 2AA football state championship 16-14.
"We wanted to come in here and win it but we came up here a little short," Battle Holley, head coach for East Duplin said. "Our guys fought until the end."
The title game, played at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, featured two undefeated teams with high-powered offenses but fans saw a low-scoring affair Saturday afternoon.
An 81-yard touchdown run by Melvin Scott gave East Duplin an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Hibriten battled back, rattling off 16 straight points in the second quarter to take the lead for good.
Chris Benson, playing in his last game for East Duplin, scored a touchdown late in the fourth quarter but it wasn't enough to overcome Hibriten's lead.
"Even though in the end we didn't win it was still an unbelievable season," Benson said, fighting back tears. "We are blessed to be here win or lose, all the glory goes to God."
The East Duplin Panthers finished the season with a 15-1 record and East Central conference champions.