Prep Football Playoffs: 2AA West Final: South Iredell made a play to remember
By Marny Hendrick
SALISBURY- Just 34 ticks remained on the game clock with a trip to the state 2AA championship hanging in the balance.
Host team Salisbury trailed 35-28 but had the ball at the South Iredell 6-yard line. It was fourth down and fittingly, the Western Final was about to come down to one play.
The Hornets called timeout and on the other side of the field, South Iredell coach Scott Miller gathered his defense around him to pass along some of his intense and fully bearded philosophy.
"I told them that this play right now you are going to remember the rest of your life," he said. "You have to go all out one play...one play to get to the state championship."
When Brian Bauk's fourth down pass fell incomplete in the end zone, the Hornets (11-3) saw a great season come to a crushing end. For the Vikings (13-2), however, several seasons of frustration all became distant memories. They are headed for Raleigh next Saturday to play Carrboro for the 2AA title game in Carter Finley Stadium.
"I might be overwhelmed about it, " linebacker Garrett Barnett said of the opportunity to play on a big stage in a big game. "But I will definitely come to play."
Barnett along with Jon Jon King, defensive back Briggs Lunsford and monster defensive end Julian Bowe keyed a solid second half effort that stopped Salisbury's offense just enough to get the win. They had a key interception by the coach's son Scott Miller and twice stopped the Hornets on downs in the second half, includng the crucial stop at the end of the game.
"We found a formation we liked against them and had some success stopping them," Barnette said, "We just played with all our heart."
Twice in the game, South Iredell trailed the Hornets by two touchdowns but on each occasion found a way to reclaim the momentum and eventually the lead.
Senior quarterback Davin King shredded the Hornet secondary for 302 passing yards , a lot of it coming on clutch yards after the catch by receivers Jaylon Stockton, Miller and halfback Lachaston Smith.
"We never gave up tonight," King said on an evening he celebrated his 18th birthday with two TD passes. "Playing for a state championship is a once in a lifetime chance and I am glad to go out with a bang."
Coach Miller called his team's resilience a matter of character. "I told them during the week that nothing in life that is easy is worth anything. You have to fight back against the odds."
He praised his defense for making the key stops when needed and his explosive offense for scoring on the last possession of the first half and every possession of the second half.
"I am proud for everyone on this team.," he said. "We could have laid down and quit but we didn't."
Playing in the West Final and now a state title is brand new territory. They have been a dominant team the past three years in the Catawba Valley Conference, going 37-4 in that span. But in the last two seasons, they entered the playoffs unbeaten only to lose in the early rounds.
For Viking super fans Sam Sharpe, class of 1972, and Jack Maxwell, who have followed the team for over four decades, Friday's win was a dream come true.
"Over the years we have had good teams and bad teams, " Maxwell said. "But this team is a special one. "
Sharpe noted he and Maxwell would definitely be making the trip to Raleigh.
"I will be driving and he will be buying."
Bob Gourley, whose two sons Alex and Rob anchor the offensive line, says a trip to a state title game "is the most amazing thing. It is such an honor for a great group of young men"