Harding High boys basketball coach Walt Aikens drove a bus to the N.C. 4A state championship Saturday, filled with the Rams basketball teams and its junior varsity football players.
He wanted the kids to witness a state championship in a major sport. Harding hadn’t been to a football state championship in 30 years. It had not won a state football championship since before he was born.
And when Harding finally beat Scotland High School 30-22 to win its first state title since 1953, as all the players went crazy all around him, Aikens could only look around and smile.
“I dreamed of this moment,” he said. “And now that it’s here, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to celebrate.”
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Harding won its 10th straight game Saturday and completed a miraculous turnaround. The Rams were 1-10 two years ago and hadn’t had a winning season since 2007. But third-year coach Sam Greiner said he sensed something special in this group and believed it could win.
And they did.
“I love these kids,” Greiner said. “It’s a family and when you build yourself together like that, there’s more than Xs and Os. Something special happens when a family happens. I saw something deep in these kids and I said, ‘We’ll be something special if God can keep us healthy.’ He kept us just healthy enough. It was a beautiful thing.”
Harding is 14-1; Scotland is 13-2
THREE WHO MATTERED
Quavaris Crouch, Harding: Rams running back was as good as advertised, as he dominated the game on offense and played linebacker, too. On 23 carries, he had 141 and scored two touchdowns, playing through a severe bone bruise in his shin.
Braheam Murphy, Harding: Caught a 56-yard pass on second-and-28 that set up a touchdown, threw a 20-yard pass for a touchdown and dashed 95 yards for a fourth-quarter score that sealed it. He was 3-for-6 passing for 53 yards. He caught a pass for 56 yards and rushed 10 times for 135 yards.
Trayvon Corbett, Harding: Defensive back had a crucial interception in the third quarter to thwart a Scotland drive and was among the game’s leading tacklers.
▪ Up 24-14 Harding got a stop on fourth and 3 at its 5. On the next posession Murphy asked Greiner to run a dangerous naked bootleg, a play called “Right Overset Liz 28-0 Lead.”
Murphy faked a handoff and outran an end 95 yards for a score. He said he cramped up on the way home.
“That’s how good he is,” Greiner said. “He’s been looking backside everytime he hands off and he knew he could outrun the end. He said ‘He can’t catch me. I’ll out run him. That’s what he did.”
▪ Scotland County fans will probably always wondered how this game might’ve been different if national player of the year Zamir White had played. The running back, a Georgia recruit, tore a knee ligament in the playoffs and missed the championship game.
▪ Harding has a turnover chain, with a U on it just like the Miami Hurricanes. Team defensive MVP Trayvon Corbett got to wear it home after getting a team-high 11 tackles, plus a big drive-ending interception and 41 yard return.
NC 4A FINAL SUMMARY
Scotland 7 7 0 8 – 22
Harding 0 17 0 13 – 30
S: Warren Bell 2 run (Tripp Wells kick)
H: Quavaris Crouch 10 run (Alejandro Guevara kick)
S: Bell 4 run (Wells kick)
H: Crouch 8 run (Guevara kick)
H: Reggie Burris 20 pass from Braheam Murphy (Guevara kick)
H: Murphy 95 run (kick failed)
S: Bruce Wall 25 pass from Bell (Shyheam McQueen run)