Alford leads way as North wins playoff thriller in overtime

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 13, 2021

By Jacob Conley

The Daily Courier of Rutherford County

AVONDALE — The North Rowan Cavaliers proved Friday that a No. 12 vs. No. 5 upset is not just for March Madness. Freshman quarterback Jeremiah Alford ran for 224 yards on 35 carries but it was his seven-yard touchdown pass Amir Alexander in overtime that proved to be the difference in the upset of Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy 34-28.

“That what we call a ‘hide play’,” North Rowan coach Nygel Pearson said. “The receiver falls down and acts like he is out of the play and then runs to the end zone. We had been saving it all night and it worked to perfection.”

After the score, North Rowan held TJCA out of the end zone for four straight plays to preserve the win.

After both teams traded punts to start the game, Gryphon quarterback Bryce Jergenson scrambled across midfield setting up Barrett Thompson’s 43-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead. A long pass to Kemon O’Kelly on the ensuing possession led to a one-yard touchdown run by Jae’mias Morrow to tie the game at 7-7 at the end of the first quarter.

The North Rowan defense came up with a big fourth down stop to start the second quarter, but Alford gave the ball right back as Holden Weatherford pulled down an interception.  A defensive offside on fourth down moved TJCA inside the North Rowan red zone before David Hargro reeled in a seven-yard touchdown catch to give TJCA a 14-7 lead. North Rowan answered right back as a long run by Morrow allowed Alford to convert a one-yard sneak that tied the contest at 14-14. TJCA wasn’t done in the half, however, as Jergenson found Dakota Twitty on a two-yard  fade pass in the back of the end zone as the Gryphons grabbed a 21-14 lead at the break.

A short kick to start the second half set the Cavaliers up with good field position. A nice run by Alford to the goal line allowed Morrow to plunge across from a yard out to tie it at 21. The visitors forced a punt and drove inside the Gryphon 10-yard line. A 25-yard field goal attempt was blocked and returned across midfield, leaving the score tied 21-21 at the end of the third quarter.

“We just went back and forth all night,” Pearson said. “Jeremiah had a good night. He is a special player, but everybody came up big and played a part in this win.”

Virginia commit Twitty made a sliding catch to start the fourth quarter. That led to a Thompson two-yard run to put the Gryphons up 28-21.  Alford answered with a 30-yard touchdown as the teams continued to go back and forth with the score tied at 28. The North Rowan defense came up with a big stop and drove down to Gryphons’ one-yard line before Alford was stopped on fourth down, sending the game into the extra session and the eventual final score.

North Rowan will hit the road once again next Friday, traveling to Robbinsville looking for another upset.

“Anytime you are playing football this late in November, it feels great,” Pearson said. “We are going to enjoy this for 24 hours and get ready for next week.”

North Rowan 34, Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy 28, OT

First Quarter
4:01 — (TJCA) Barrett Thompson 43-yard run (Brayden Gilling XP)
2:31 — (NR) Jae’mias Morrow 2-yard run (#9 XP)
Second Quarter
4:58 — (TJCA) Bryce Jergenson 7-yard pass to David Hargro (Gilling XP)
2:18 — (NR) Jeremiah Alford 1-yard run (#9 XP)
32.4 — (TJCA) Jergenson 2-yard pass to Dakota Twitty (Gilling XP)
Third Quarter
8:32 — (NR) Morrow 1-yard run (#9 XP)
Fourth Quarter
10:10 — (TJCA) Thompson 2-yard run (Gilling XP)
7:25 — (NR) Alford 21-yard run (#9 XP)
(NR) Alford 7-yard pass to Amir Alexander (XP Blocked)
Individual stats
#3 Jeremiah Alford
35 carries 224 yards 2TD
#2 Jae’mias Morrow
16 carries 78 yards 2TD
#32 Mkwasi Walker
2 carries 10 yards
#3: Jeremiah Alford
6-18 83 yards 1 TD 1 INT
#14 Jerome Blakeney
2 catches 21 yards
#13 Kemon O’Kelley
1 catch 40 yards
Amir Alexander
1 catch 7 yards
#80 Xavier Suber
1 catch 4 yards
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Amir Alexander scored the game-winning touchdown for North Rowan. The story previously attributed the touchdown incorrectly. We apologize for the error.