Charlotte Catholic junior Matt White will remember the interception that sent his team to the state championship game for a long time.
With just 13 seconds left in the game, No. 3 Charlotte Catholic was clinging to a 35-34 lead over No. 8 Vance in the 4A Western Regional final Friday at Keffer Stadium.
Vance had just scored a last-minute touchdown on a 4-yard pass from Omar Baker Jr. to Myles Dorn. Coach Aaron Brand sent his offense back onto the field for the 2-point conversion, going for the win instead of the tie.
"If I had it all over, I'd do it again," Brand said. "Our philosophy is all gas, no brakes, so I think we made the right call."
Baker dropped back, looked right and threw a pass that ended up in the hands of White, who sprinted toward midfield in celebration.
"I just stayed on (Dorn), got some pressure, picked it off," White said. "It was crazy. ... Best feeling ever."
The interception sealed Catholic's (14-1) come-from-behind 35-34 win over Vance. Catholic will play New Bern (15-0) in the 4A state championship game Friday night at Wake Forest University.
It will be Catholic's second state championship appearance in three years.
"This just means the world," said Charlotte Catholic senior Ryan Miller. "We worked so hard since Day 1, since January in the weight room, to 7-on-7s in the spring and summer, from Day 1 of practice in August, this is what we worked for. ... Everyone has come together and we're going to states."
Catholic had to come from behind to get there. The offense struggled to get going early and fumbled twice in the first half as Vance took a 14-0 lead in the second quarter.
Vance (11-4) bottled up the Catholic's Wing-T running game and allowed just 135 yards on the ground, usually a recipe for success against the run-heavy offense. But this year's Catholic team showed that it can throw the ball.
Quarterback John Walton was 14-of-16 for 213 yards and three touchdowns.
"John did an amazing job dropping back and hitting his passes quick, making the right reads and just doing everything right," said Miller, who had 87 yards receiving and a touchdown.
Charlotte Catholic scored first on a 3-yard Jaret Anderson run in the second quarter, but a Vance had a 20-7 lead with 1 minute and 27 seconds left in the half after Baker hit Dorn for a 73-yard touchdown pass.
Baker (17-of 21, 244 yards) and Dorn (169 yards receiving) connected on four touchdown passes in the game.
Charlotte Catholic ran it's two-minute drill and scored with less than 10 seconds left in the first half on a 12-yard pass to Jon Newman, cutting Vance's halftime lead to 20-14.
After receiving the second-half kickoff, Charlotte Catholic put together a 14-play and more than 7 minute drive that ended on a 5-yard touchdown pass to Miller and gave Catholic a 21-20 lead.
The teams then traded scores, Baker finding Dorn again for Vance, and Walton tossing a screen pass to Anderson, who ran 50 yards to the endzone and tied the score 28-28 with 10:54 left in the game.
Catholic forced a Vance punt on the next possession and the offense put together another long drive. Catholic used 6 minutes and 4 seconds of the clock to go 81 yards and score on a 2-yard Anderson run with 3:15 left, setting up Vance's final possession.
The Vance players lingered on the field long after the game, hugging and crying after coming so close to a state championship berth.
"I just told these guys that I just couldn't be prouder of the effort," Brand said. "We just kind of ran out of gas at the end. ... We'll be back."