CHAPEL HILL At the end of the N.C. 4AA football championship Saturday, when the trophies were being presented, Butler High All-American quarterback Riley Ferguson said he was so excited he didn’t know what to do.
So he started dancing.
“I’m just so happy,” he said. “I’m at a loss for words. This is what we’ve worked all four years in high school for.”
Ferguson threw for 301 yards and five touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ 56-28 win against Fayetteville Britt. He cemented his school’s and his legacy with one of the best championship-game performances of the modern era.
He tied former Independence All-American Joe Cox’s record for touchdown passes. He pushed down one of former Independence All-America Chris Leak’s records, taking over eighth place in championship-game yardage. Leak still holds the top spot.
Ferguson also became only the fourth Mecklenburg County 4A quarterback to win multiple state titles, joining Leak (three), Cox (two) and former Independence quarterback Darryl McFadden (two).
Sidelined with a broken bone near the thumb of his throwing right hand, Ferguson missed about half the regular season. Butler kept winning, and when Ferguson returned, the Bulldogs really took off.
Ferguson finished the year with 2,173 yards passing and 25 touchdowns in nine games, and he never looked better than Saturday. He threw a couple passes low, but given time by his offensive line, Ferguson delivered accurate touch passes and lasers down field.
Britt just had no answer for Butler’s passing game.
The Bulldogs ran up a 28-0 first-quarter lead by throwing on 17 of 28 plays. Ferguson frequently had receivers running free in the secondary, and the Tennessee recruit almost always found them. He completed 20 of 29 passes, including four first-quarter touchdowns.
“We weren’t really planning to pass that much,” Ferguson said. “But the passing game was killing them. We were going to do whatever we could do. Their defensive backs looked good on film, so we didn’t know how they would react. We came into the game ready for anything.”
Butler coach Brian Hales said that because Britt didn’t play many pass-first teams like his, it was hard to get a good read from film on how Britt would react. So he decided to show several formations.
Once he saw some opportunities to pass, he pounced.
And Ferguson thrived.
“This is what it’s all about,” Ferguson said, clutching the game’s MVP trophy. “The championship we won in 2010 (when Ferguson started as a sophomore), that belonged to those seniors. We had (running back) Jahwan Edwards, who was the leader of that team.
“But now, us being seniors, we had to have more of an impact on the team. This means more to us. It’s very special.”