Its powerful ground game stifled, Lenoir Hibriten went to the air Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill, scoring on two long passes for a 16-14 victory over East Duplin, capturing the school’s first football state championship.
The 2AA final at Kenan Stadium wasn’t decided until Hibriten’s Miles Simon recovered an onside kick attempt by East Duplin with 1 minute, 9 seconds left.
Simon had a big day for the Panthers (16-0), catching both touchdown passes and earning Most Valuable Player honors. East Duplin finished 15-1.
Hibriten totaled nearly 4,700 rushing yards and only 450 passing yards in their first 15 games, but East Duplin’s defense shut down the Panthers’ ground attack.
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East Duplin got on the scoreboard first, when Melvin Scott ran 81 yards for a touchdown with 8:14 left in the first quarter.
Hibriten did all its scoring in the second quarter. The Panthers’ Marqwane Jones tackled Chris Benson in the end zone for a safety with 10:39 left in the half. Hibriten then went ahead 9-7 on a 53-yard halfback pass from Gee Witherspoon to Simon just a minute later.
Hibriten expanded the lead to 16-7 shortly before the half, on a 43-yard pass from Jayden Scott to Simon. East Duplin narrowed the gap to 16-14 with 1:30 remaining on a 4-yard run by Benson. The onside kick attempt then failed.
Cherokee wins 1A crown
In Raleigh, Cherokee battled back from a 7-0 halftime deficit and beat North Duplin 21-13 at Carter-Finley Stadium for the 1A championship – the first in Cherokee’s history.
Braves quarterback Tye Mintz tied the game at 7-7 on a 5-yard run with 4:38 left in the third quarter. He then scored on a 51-yard run with 11:23 left in the game, putting Cherokee (14-1) ahead 13-7. Mintz, named the game’s Most Valuable Player, also had 13 tackles and an interception on defense.
Isaiah Evans’ 11-yard run was the final score for Cherokee (14-1), whose coach, Kent Briggs, has battled cancer for more than a year. William Archer and Kenny Sheppard scored on runs for North Duplin (14-1).
Tarboro captures 5th title
Deontae Williams ran for two touchdowns as Tarboro trounced Mount Airy 32-7 for the 1AA state championship at Carter-Finley Stadium.
The Vikings (15-0) dominated the game, scored twice in the second quarter and three times in the fourth. Keon Caudle put Tarboro ahead 6-0 in the second quarter on a 3-yard run, and the Vikings got all the points they needed on a 36-yard punt return by Jyron Albritton midway through the period.
Tarboro, winning its fifth state football crown, added two short fourth-quarter scoring runs by Williams. Mount Airy (14-1) avoided the shutout by scoring on a 35-yard pass from Ian Holder to Donovan Greene with 5:30 remaining.