Saturday, December 9, 2023

Mount Airy Secures 9th NCHSAA Football State Championship

CHAPEL HILL – The Tarboro Vikings and Mount Airy Granite Bears clashed in a highly anticipated showdown during the 1A State Championship match at Kenan Memorial Stadium on the University of North Carolina campus. This marked their second encounter in the state finals, with each team having claimed victory over the other in previous championship matches in 2017 and 2022. On Saturday, Mount Airy emerged victorious, walking away with their ninth NCHSAA Football State Championship with a decisive 21-3 win.

In a defensive stalemate that kept fans on the edge of their seats, the first quarter showcased a remarkable 55-yard punt from Tarboro's Oscar Perez Gaspar, landing just shy of the 5-yard line. Gaspar later contributed the initial points of the game in the second quarter, nailing a 39-yard field goal to cap a seven-play, 17-yard drive. As the first half came to a close, Tarboro's defense made a crucial goal line stand, and the Granite Bears missed a 21-yard field goal attempt, leaving Tarboro with a 3-0 lead at halftime.

The turning point occurred in the third quarter when Deric Dandy's pivotal tackle on fourth and one led to a turnover on downs, granting Mount Airy possession on the Tarboro 29-yard line. Seizing the opportunity, Tyler Mason powered through with a 12-yard run after a 5-play sequence, propelling the Granite Bears to a 7-3 lead.

The momentum continued in the fourth quarter as Ian Gallimore executed a quick shovel pass to Mario Revels for an electrifying 89-yard touchdown within the first 15 seconds. Gallimore, orchestrating a patient 9-play, 32-yard drive, connected with Blake Hawks in the endzone, sealing the championship title for Mount Airy with a commanding 21-3 lead.

Tarboro concluded the season with a commendable 13-1 record, marking their 14th appearance in the state finals since their debut in 1984. This year's appearance marked their seventh consecutive entry, maintaining a shot at the state title every year since 2017. Despite the defeat, the Vikings hold a respectable state finals record of 8-6, with runner-up finishes in both 2022 and 2023.

Meanwhile, Mount Airy wrapped up an undefeated season with a flawless 16-0 record. This marked their 14th appearance in the final game of the season, boasting a 9-5 record in championship appearances since their inaugural participation in 1935.