Sunday, December 4, 2011

NCHSAA 2A Championship Postgame Wrap-up

It was the matchup that everyone wanted to see last year, but an upset in the regionals kept it from happening. This year, though, nothing was going to stop the matchup between the Lincolnton Wolves and the Tarboro Vikings in the 2A state championship game. Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh was rocking as the two titans met to decide who was the best 2A team in North Carolina. Lincolnton, winners in was the number seed in the West while Tarboro was the two-time defending champions.

Lincolnton won the opening toss and chose to receive. Tarboro kicked out of bounds so the Wolves began their drive at their own 35. And what a drive it was. Using a steady mix of inside Dee Littlejohn runs and Patrick Rendleman passes, the Wolves drove down the field in methodical fashion. When it looked like Tarboro had forced the Wolves to punt, a fake to Dee Littlejohn kept the chains moving and the clock running. A 3 yard score by Michael Cunningham gave the Wolves a 6-0 lead. While Lincolnton only drove 65 yards, they took 9 minutes off of the clock to do so.

Tarboro finally got the ball with a little over 2 minutes remaining in the first quarter and went straight to their running heavy “Tarboro-T” offense. A few short runs inside and long runs outside had the Vikings pounding on the door as the first quarter ended. Todd Gurley scored on the first play of the second quarter and the game was tied at 7.

A fumble by Lincolnton on the first play of their next drive gave the Vikings great field position at the 22 yard line of the Wolves. Larry Jones made Lincolnton pay going in for a score from the 9 yard line. The resulting PAT made it a 7 point lead for Tarboro, 14-7.

When it looked like Tarboro had really turned the momentum on Lincolnton, intercepting a pass and moving downfield for a score, a fumble gave the ball back to the Wolves. When the Wolves were forced to punt, a muff by the Tarboro returner gave the ball right back to Lincolnton. The Wolves tied it up with a Dee Littlejohn 7 yard run and the score at the half was 14 all.

Tarboro came out in the second half determined to put some more points on the board and apply the pressure to a Lincolnton offense that now found some momentum. And the Vikings were successful with a 5 yard touchdown pass, their only pass so far, from Aaron Moore to Tyquan Lewis. The PAT missed, though, and Tarboro led by 6.

Lincolnton immediately answered with a long 88 yard kickoff return for touchdown by Michael Cunningham to give the Wolves a 21-20 lead. Not wanting to be outdone, Todd Gurley answered right back with a long 58 yard touchdown run to make the score 27-21 in favor of the defending champions.

The fourth quarter was a scoring frenzy that began with a Patrick Rendleman score on a 15 yard quarterback option keeper. The kickoff was returned by Tarboro the Lincolnton 31 and Todd Gurley ran it in from there on the next play to make the score 33-28 in favor of Tarboro after another failed PAT.

Lincolnton moved the ball back down the field on their next drive giving the Tarboro defense all they wanted of Dee Littlejohn. As Lincolnton faced a 3rd and 2 from the Tarboro 28, Scott Cloninger again called on Littlejohn to carry the mail and the senior responded with a touchdown run, knocking over two Tarboro defenders on the way. The 2 point conversion was good and the Wolves led 36-33 in the final quarter.

Tarboro went right back on offense and drove down the field. When faced with a 4th down, Tarboro attempted their second pass and the game and converted. Todd Gurley added his fourth touchdown of the game to make the game 39-36. The PAT was no good and the Vikings went to their defense to hold a 3 point lead with less than four minutes left in the game.

The kickoff went into the end zone for a touchback and the Wolves were faced with the task of going 80 yards to win a state championship. On 4th and 6 from the Tarboro 43, the Wolves were unable to convert, giving the ball back to Tarboro. Tarboro star Todd Gurley ran deep into Lincolnton territory seal the deal as the Tarboro faithful celebrated their third straight championship.