Championship Central

Check out the 2018 Carolina Gridiron Championship Central page. Stay tuned for updates, insights, and analysis from teams and games around the state as schools start their journey towards the state championship.

2018 Preseason All-Gridiron Team Released

Carolina Gridiron is pleased to announce the 2018 preseason All-Gridiron team. Congratulations to each of the players chosen and best wishes for a successful 2018 season.

Check Out The Weekly Top 15 This Season releases Top 15 Rankings every week. Be sure to check back each Thursday duing the season to see where your favorite team is ranked.

College Football in North Carolina

Carolina Gridiron is expanding coverage of Division I, II and III college football teams in the state of North Carolina every season. See how your favorite college team is doing on the gridiron this season.

Scrimmages and Jamborees

With your help, we are able to yearly put together the most comprehensive statewide high school football jamboree/scrimmage list in North Carolina. We are beginning the 2018 list now. Be sure to check back for more scrimmages and jamborees.

Carolina Gridiron FAIR Rankings

Check out the Carolina Gridiron FAIR Rankings archives to see where your team has stacked up during past seasons. The 2018 rankings will be released once all teams have played at least one game against an NCHSAA opponent.

App State Wins New Orleans Bowl, Blows Out Middle Tennessee 45-13

NEW ORLEANS — The R+L New Orleans Bowl turned into a season-ending coronation for the Sun Belt champions.

Malik Williams and the rest of the Mountaineers threw quite a Black and Gold party in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Williams delivered two trick-play touchdowns on wide receiver passes, including one to quarterback Zac Thomas, and the defense made several important stops under tough circumstances to help Appalachian State maintain its perfect bowl record with a 45-13 victory against Middle Tennessee on Saturday night.

With App State alum Mark Ivey serving as the interim head coach, college teammate Shawn Clark making aggressive play calls for the offense and 23-year App State assistant Dale Jones coordinating the defense, the Mountaineers (11-2) rolled after persevering through a slow start against the Conference USA runners-up.

"We knew, as tough as these players were, if they smelled any fear or weakness or confusion out of us, you can't fake it," Ivey said. "We decided we'd have fun with it and make sure they'd get exactly what they've been getting all along. If we did that, they'd give us exactly what they've been giving. That's what they did, and they were phenomenal."

App State is the only FBS program with no losses or ties in at least four bowl appearances, and it has accomplished that feat in just four postseason-eligible seasons. It also matched the 2015 team for the best final record since the transition.

Appalachian led 24-6 at halftime Saturday even though Middle Tennessee (8-6) reached the App State 30 on four first-half drives, with Josh Thomas' red zone interception in the first quarter serving as a key momentum swing, and senior Okon Godwin accounted for 2.5 of the defense's six sacks. Anthony Flory, Demetrius Taylor, and Chris Willis contributed in that category, and Tae Hayes also posted a first-half interception.

In addition to becoming the first App State quarterback to catch a touchdown pass in at least 35 yards, New Orleans Bowl MVP Zac Thomas threw three touchdown passes, including his ninth and 10th connections of the season with Corey Sutton. With Thomas Hennigan catching Williams' first touchdown pass and Henry Pearson also scoring on a Thomas throw, the Mountaineers totaled five TDs through the air.

Darrynton Evans rushed for 108 yards to go over 100 for the seventh time in the last nine games, and true freshman Camerun Peoples' 63-yard score on his second carry of the night gave the Mountaineers a 38-6 lead midway through the third quarter.

"The culture we have here at App State, you really can't explain it," said two-year captain MyQuon Stout, whose work at nose tackle played a key role for a defense that didn't allow 20 points in any of the team's 11 wins. "It's great coaches, great staff, great players. We break it down on 'Family' every day, like two or three times a day. We really care about each other and work hard for each other."

App State's first two touchdowns came on passes from Williams, but two turnovers in the first five offensive plays created an uphill battle for the Mountaineers.

Middle Tennessee, which had missed a 47-yard field goal to cap the game-opening series, followed a quick interception on App State's first series with a 24-yard field goal. The Blue Raiders faced a second down from the Appalachian 5 before Godwin and Noel Cook combined on a tackle for loss, and Desmond Franklin broke up a third-down pass to the end zone.

A fumble on the second play of App State's next series gave Middle Tennessee possession at the Mountaineers' 21, but Cook's pressure contributed to an interception by Josh Thomas at the 15 as left-handed quarterback Brent Stockstill rolled to his right.

"Making turnovers, that's just what our defensive backs have talked about all year," Thomas said. We're real greedy when it comes to picks."

Zac Thomas' 35-yard completion to Jalen Virgil was the big play on a drive that ended with a 22-yard field goal from Chandler Staton, whose kick followed a long snap from fill-in true freshman Max Durschlag.

Hennigan and Tyler Bird helped stuff a fourth-and-2 rush on a fake punt from the Middle Tennessee 43 a few minutes later, and Hennigan gave the Mountaineers the lead for good with a 30-yard touchdown on an accurate deep throw from Williams, the former high school quarterback who had caught a backward pass from Thomas near the right sideline.

That was the second time in two seasons that App State had scored with Hennigan catching a pass from Williams, whose next TD throw of the night followed a Hayes interception that resulted from Elijah Diarrassouba's quarterback pressure.

"Before the game, Coach (Justin Watts) told me I was going to have two passing touchdowns before this game was over," Williams said. "After that, I told Zac it felt better throwing him a touchdown than receiving one from him."

In last year's bowl win, Williams tried to throw a short touchdown pass to quarterback Taylor Lamb but kept the ball for a score when Lamb was unavailable as a target. On Saturday, after taking a reverse handoff from Evans, Williams rolled right and lofted an 8-yard touchdown pass to Thomas in the right side of the end zone for a 17-3 advantage with 6:38 remaining in the half.

The only other touchdown with an App State quarterback reaching the end zone on a pass play in recent memory occurred in 2010 when DeAndre Presley was credited with a TD "reception" on a play in which he recovered his receiver's fumble against Chattanooga and ran the final 33 yards with the ball.

"I've had my eyes on that play for a while, so today it was the perfect call," Thomas said.

Evans' 62-yard run set up Pearson's 1-yard touchdown reception in the final minute of the half, and Middle Tennessee advanced to the Appalachian 16 before settling for a 33-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter.

Clark, App State's run game coordinator and offensive line coach before Scott Satterfield's departure created the need for a new play-caller, had planned to coach from the seventh-floor booth for one half and then make a decision about the second half. He stayed upstairs instead of returning to his familiar spot on the sidelines, in part so he could maintain his bigger-picture approach to directing the offense.

"I knew if I was on the sideline I'd be more involved watching the offensive line than trying to watch the whole game," Clark said. "For me personally, I had to get away from it. (QB coach) Pete Thomas did a great job, and it was the offensive staff calling the plays. I told them that it can't be hectic on the headset. We're going to think about it, and we're going to take our shots, and we're going for broke."

The view from the top of the Superdome remained just as clear after halftime.

The Mountaineers marched 75 yards in 10 plays to begin the third quarter, with Sutton catching a 17-yard touchdown pass from Thomas, and back-to-back sacks of Stockstill led to a punt that paved the way for Peoples to make his bowl debut.

Able to not lose a year of eligibility because he was playing in just his third game, Peoples gained 1 yard on his first carry before breaking free down the right sideline on his 63-yard score.

"The feeling is indescribable," Peoples said. "I've been preparing all year, waiting on it. With the redshirt rule, I've been patient, waiting my turn. To get in, see that opening, I'm asking God to give me everything in my legs and let me get in this end zone. The bulls up front, they did a great job, so it's really just a team thing."

Middle Tennessee posted a third-quarter touchdown to cut into its deficit, but App State's defense applied constant pressure to Stockstill the rest of the way, and Sutton capped the scoring on an 11-yard touchdown with 13:06 remaining.

Willis and Godwin recorded sacks on the next series, enabling App State's coaches to play senior quarterback Zeb Speir, senior receiver Brad Absher and many other reserves in the closing minutes.

As time wound down, players repeatedly chanted Ivey's name. He was even lifted into the air and carried across part of the field.

As the celebratory, Ivey-led song suggests, it wasn't nothin' but an App State party.

That's all for a memorable, record-setting 2018 season

"For me personally, this was my last game," Godwin said, "and I just wanted to leave everything on the field."

East Forsyth Holds Off Scotland in 4A Thriller

DURHAM – East Forsyth came from behind twice in the second half to tie Scotland, eventually taking the lead with just 2:45 to play and hanging on for a 35-28 victory and the school’s second state championship.

Scotland had the game’s opening possession and they made the most of it as the Scots drove 62 yards in 16 plays using the first 7:50 of the game. Syheam McQueen pushed it across the goal line on a two-yard dive to give the Scots the lead on the first of his two touchdowns.

East Forsyth responded with the next two scores. Micah Crowell scored on a four-yard run with 2:17 to go in the first quarter to tie the game at 7. Ronald Jackson, Jr. then plunged in from three yards out to put the Eagles in front 14-7 with 10:03 to go in the second quarter.

Scotland mounted another incredible drive spanning 13 plays and crossing 57 yards before McQueen tied the game at 14 on a three-yard touchdown run with 4:05 to go in the half. Just under two minutes later, East Forsyth surged back in front 21-14 as Ty’Shaun Lyles hit Nick Childs for a 51-yard touchdown strike with 2:12 to go in the half.

Scotland sped down the field in the final two minutes of the half. The Scots ripped off a 66-yard drive in nine plays with Mandrell Johnson sliding in the end zone from two yards out with just two seconds to spare before halftime, tying the score at 21.

Both teams went scoreless through the third quarter, setting the stage for an explosive fourth quarter. Scotland pushed back in front as Joseph McKoy cashed in on a one-yard touchdown run to polish off an eight-play, 60-yard scoring drive and put Scotland up 28-21 with just 10:14 to play.

4A MVP Ty'Shaun Lyles
East Forsyth came alive in the final minutes as Lyles hooked up with Mizell Hall twice for scoring strikes to surge in front 35-28. The first of the two touchdown passes came as Lyles scrambled towards the right sideline, spotting Hall open in the middle of the field and throwing against his body to make the play. Hall pulled the lofted pass in and scampered the rest of the 22 yards into the end zone to tie the game at 28 with 6:03 to go. Then with 2:45 to play, Lyles spotted Hall uncovered in the formation and called for the snap before the play had even been relayed to his teammates, Hall pulled in the quick pass and scurried 14 yards into the left corner of the end zone to put the Eagles on top by the decisive 35-28 margin.

Lyles was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, completing 10 of his 17 passes for 169 yards and three touchdowns including the game winner. Hall was the Eagles Most Outstanding Offensive Player with four receptions for 56 yards and the two game-altering scores. Javon Cobb was the leading tackler for East Forsyth, credited with 13 tackles on the game and chosen as East Forsyth’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player.

Kavon Green was selected as the Most Outstanding Defensive Player for the Scots. Green was tied for the team lead in tackles with four and also pulled in an interception, returning it 15 yards. Joseph McCoy was tapped as Scotland’s Most Outstanding Offensive Player, responsible for 104 rushing yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.

Story and photos courtesy of the NCHSAA

Tarboro Pulls Away in Second Half, Defeats East Surry 50-10

RALEIGH – The Tarboro Vikings pulled away with 36 second-half points to defeat East Surry 50-10 and win back-to-back state championships at the 1AA level.  The win gave the Vikings the program’s sixth state championship. The Vikings were dominant on the ground racking up 442 yards rushing while holding the Cardinals to zero yards rushing in the game.

East Surry jumped out to an early lead as Gunnar Jones recovered a Tarboro fumble and too it 18 yards to the end zone to give the Cardinals a 7-0 lead with 4:02 to go in the first quarter. The Vikings answered on the ensuing possession driving 69 yards in six plays Kimani McDaniels capped off the drive with a 36-yard touchdown run with 47 seconds to go in the quarter to knot the score at 7.

Clifton Joyner, Jr. gave Tarboro their first lead of the game when he scored from 17 yards out on the ground with 8:34 to go in the second quarter. That capped a 29-yard drive took just five plays after a Keon Caudle punt return set Tarboro up with a short field. East Surry sliced into that lead, mounting a 16-play drive that chewed up 6:35 of the second quarter and culminated in a 24-yard field goal by Derek Sutterby to make it 14-10 Tarboro at the half.

1AA MVP Kimani McDaniels
The second half was all Vikings as McDaniels opened the third quarter by breaking a 65-yard run for a touchdown with 10:16 to go in the quarter. McDaniels long sprint made it 21-10. McDaniels finished the game with 112 yards rushing and two touchdowns as he was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

Just three minutes after McDaniels long run, Joyner, Jr. found paydirt on a one-yard touchdown run to put the Vikings up 29-10 after the two-point conversion attempt was successful. Joyner, Jr. finished the game with 76 yards rushing on 12 carries with two touchdowns as he was named the Most Outstanding Offensive Player for Tarboro.

Caudle added a touchdown late in the third quarter, crossing from 40 yards out with just 11 seconds to go in the quarter, putting Tarboro up 36-10. Jaquez Edge scored from four yards out with 9:47 to go in the game, punctuating a six-play, 56-yard drive and extending the Viking lead to 43-10. Caudle closed out the scoring with a 33-yard sprint to the end zone with 4:37 to go in the game to give the Vikings the final 50-10 margin.

Melik Ward was named the Most Outstanding Defensive Player for Tarboro as he racked up 8 tackles, including 2.5 sacks and 3 tackles for loss in the game. For East Surry, Hoyt Bullington led the team in tackles with 19 in the game, including three for loss as he was selected East Surry’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player. Jefferson Boaz was the Most Outstanding Offensive Player for East Surry, completing 10 of 20 passes for 122 yards and averaging 38.8 yards per punt.

Story and photos courtesy of NCHSAA

Shelby Wins Fifth Title in Six Years After 42-21 Win Over North Davidson

RALEIGH, NC - The Shelby Golden Lions jumped out to a 14-0 lead after one quarter and did not look back on their way to doubling up North Davidson 42-21 and winning the school’s tenth NCHSAA State Championship in football.

Sophomore linebacker Jack Hollifield got the festivities underway, intercepting a pass and returning it 93 yards for a touchdown with 6:23 to go in the first quarter, putting Shelby up 7-0. Hollifield was named the Golden Lions Most Outstanding Defensive Player with nine tackles, a tackle for loss, a pass break-up and the 93-yard interception return for a score.

The Golden Lion defense then forced a three-and-out on the ensuing Knights possession, and after a nice punt return, Shelby had exceptional field position to start their drive at the Knights 38. Diavonni Daley capped off the 5-play, 38-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown catch from Isaiah Bess to put the Lions in front 14-0.

Shelby kept the foot on the gas pedal to start the second quarter, as Daley hauled in a 22-yard pass from Bess to cap a nine-play, 54-yard drive and give the Lions a 21-0 advantage with 10:45 to play in the first half. Bess finished the contest with 192 yards and three touchdown passes as he completed 17 of his 26 pass attempts and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. Daley hauled in six passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns as he was selected as Shelby’s Most Outstanding Offensive Player in the game.

North Davidson responded on their next possession, sprinting 72 yards in just 8 plays and two minutes. The Knights got on the board with Devon Welch’s three-yard touchdown plunge to trim the Shelby lead to 21-7 which is how the teams entered the locker room at the half.

2AA MVP Isaiah Bess
The Lions started to pull away for good with an 18-yard touchdown pass by Bess to Fabian Pettis with 2:15 to go in the third. That touchdown finished off a 10-play 63-yard drive that chewed up 4:07 of clock. The Knights answered right back with an 11-play drive of their own that went 50 yards and spanned 4:45 to cut the lead to 28-14 when Jackson Perrell scored on a three-yard touchdown run.

The two teams traded scores for the rest of the contest with Donye Fuller plunging in from a yard out for the Golden Lions before Gage Williams recovered a Shelby fumble, rumbling 15 yards for a score to trim the Shelby lead back to 14 at 35-21 and 4:48 to go. Jaylon Scott put the game away for the Golden Lions when he scored from one yard out to polish off a 9-play, 49-yard drive at the 1:15 mark of the final quarter.

The North Davidson defense was led by Blake Stephens who collected 10 tackles on the game including 3.5 sacks and 4 tackles for loss. He is also credited with a pass break-up and quarterback hurry in the game as he was named North Davidson’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player. The Knight was led by Themus Fulks who was named the Most Outstanding Offensive Player for the Knights with eight receptions for 146 yards on the afternoon.

Story and photos courtesy of NCHSAA