Maybe you saw it…

or maybe you didn’t, but there was one hell of a high school football game in Chapel Hill on Sunday between Jack Britt and Richmond County for the 4-AA title.

One of the benefits of writing football stories for The Sandspur is the fact that, in cases like these, I can write 35 FREAKING INCHES of copy and still leave stuff out.

It was an amazing game to cap an amazing season of high school football here in Cumberland County.

Like I said, it’s absurdly long, but check out my story below…

CHAPEL HILL — With 5:20 left on the scoreboard clock at Kenan Stadium, Tremale France carried the ball into the end zone, giving Jack Britt a 35-24 lead over Richmond County in the 4-AA State Championship game.

He wasn’t there, but if he were, Yogi Berra might have reminded everyone that “it ain’t over ‘till it’s over.”

In what will likely go down as one of the most unlikely comebacks in state title game history, the Raiders scored a pair of touchdowns in the waning minutes to snatch a 38-35 win over the Buccaneers.

If the double indignities of losing a championship game and falling to Richmond County for the ninth straight time weren’t enough for Britt coach Richard Bailey, he and his team became the latest victims of “Raider Magic,” Richmond County’s history of unlikely victories.

“They find a way,” he said. “I don’t know about ‘Raider Magic.’ I call it great coaches, great players and just a will and a tradition.

“But if I never have to play Richmond County again it will be too soon. (Being 0-9) is all all I need and all I can stand. Especially ones like this.”

It’s hard to pinpoint one thing that went wrong in the final minutes for the Buccaneers (14-2). It was a perfect storm of misfortune and sublime skill from Raider quarterback and Wendy’s Most Valuable Player Tedarrius Wiley.

Wiley was 20-of-25 for 325 yards and four touchdowns on the day while leading Richmond County (12-3-1) with 68 yards rushing.

The junior signal caller passed for 120 yards and two of those scores in the final two drives.

“He was tremendous, and thank goodness,” Richmond County coach Paul Hoggard said. “Because we had trouble running the football against a very good defensive football team.”

At different points in the game, both teams threatened to run away with it.

Richmond County cashed in a Jack Britt fumble for a 22-yard field goal to open the scoring and, after forcing a punt, marched back down field for a touchdown on a six-yard pass from Wiley to Most Outstanding Offensive Player Gabe Love (7 catches, 112 yards) for a 10-0 lead.

With a quarter in the books, Britt was teetering on the verge of being blown out before responding with an offensive flurry.

France capped an 61-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run and, after a Raider punt, the Bucs went to the air for their next touchdown.

Everett Proctor dropped back to pass on second down on his own 21-yard line and found a wide-open Curtis Maheu streaking behind the Richmond County defense.

Proctor’s pass hit him in stride for a 79-yard touchdown and a sudden 14-10 lead.

The teams swapped punts and the Raiders took over on their own 22 with 1:40 left on the first-half clock.

On second down, Wiley lobbed a harmless looking swing pass in the right flats to running back Alex Ingram. A Britt defender closed in, seemingly in position to stop the play for a short gain.

Instead, Ingram slipped that tackle and raced down the sideline for a 39-yard gain.

Three plays later, Wiley hit Quayshawn Dumas with a 23-yard fade pass in the end zone, helping the Raiders take a 17-14 lead into intermission.

“We give up a touchdown right before half,” Bailey said. “I promise you, if we tackle that swing pass, they’re going to run the clock out. In fact, I was getting ready to call timeout and try to get the ball back. But we let it go 40 yards and they get a score and all the momentum goes right back to them.”

The Raiders carried that momentum into the opening drive of the second half when Justin Jackson finished a 13-play, 65-yard drive with a one-yard plunge, giving the Raiders another 10-point cushion at 24-14.

What followed was an epic march by the Bucs.

A 17-play drive — 16 of those were runs — covered 65 yards and took a little more than 7:30 off the game clock before France barreled into the end zone from three yards out to make it 24-21 early in the fourth quarter.

The Britt defense quickly gave the ball back to Proctor and company with a three-and-out and the next scoring drive could not have been more unlike the previous one.

On the fourth play of the ensuing possession, Proctor (9-of-16, 215 yards) dropped back to pass and, in a scene very much like the one that happened in the second quarter, Maheu (four catches, 155 yards) was again all alone behind the Raider secondary.

This time, the touchdown pass was 58 yards and Britt regained the lead at 28-24 with a little more than seven minutes left to play.

After forcing a fumble, France (68 yards) scored his third touchdown of the day from 23 yards out, giving Britt a 35-24 lead and, seemingly, the school’s first-ever state crown.

“It was the high of highs,” Bailey said. “We were thinking, ‘we’re going to win a state championship.’”

The fourth-quarter drama was far from over, however.

No one dressed in green and yellow moved from the stands across the way in an eerie bit of foreshadowing of the events yet to come.

The Raiders calmly drove the ball 65 yards in nine plays, finishing off the march with a two-yard fade pass to Love who, at six-feet tall outjumped a Buccaneer defender for the football in a scene that repeated itself throughout the afternoon.

“(Wiley) throws a very catchable ball,” Bailey said. “It’s got good trajectory that makes it into a jump-ball situation. We were there. You keep hoping that they won’t make all of those plays, that sooner or later, you’ll luck into one.”

With just 2:19 to go, the Raiders lined up for an onside kick. Britt sent 10 men on the field, forcing them to use a timeout that, while harmlessly annoying at the time, would prove critical later on.

Darius Carter was the fourth player to touch a beautifully struck onside kick and he held on to give Britt the ball on the Raider 47.

The clock read 2:15 and Richmond County had one timeout left.

One first down was all that stood between Jack Britt and a state title. Even three running plays and a punt would have pinned Richmond County deep in its own territory with about 30 seconds remaining.

Instead, disaster struck.

Eric Johnson, a junior who rushed for more than 1,200 yards and 17 touchdowns this season, took a handoff from Proctor, only to watch the ball slip from his grasp and fall to the grass.
Jackson recovered, and the Raiders had life.

“I hate for the kid who fumbled, but that gave us a glimmer of hope,” Hoggard said.

Six plays later, Wiley tossed his final touchdown pass of the day on a four-yard screen pass to Lovell Joy and the Raiders went back in front to stay at 38-35.

Britt got the ball back with 51 seconds remaining, but with only one timeout.

Proctor’s final pass in a Jack Britt uniform fell harmlessly to the turf a few plays later, and Richmond County was crowned state champions.

“It was a roller coaster,” Bailey said. “My emotions right now are all over the place. I keep looking at the little band my son gave me this week and I’m trying to find a silver lining.”


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