Tre Harbison and his Crest teammates couldn’t be sure what was better: completing a second straight undefeated season with another N.C. High School Athletic Association 3AA football championship Saturday, or doing it by thumping the last team to beat the Chargers, running over Southern Durham 55-21.
Harbison was named most valuable player of the game after leading Crest (16-0) to its 32nd consecutive victory with his seven touchdowns and 295 yards rushing on 24 carries. He also broke the Cleveland County career touchdown mark with 100.
Saturday’s win was Crest’s sixth championship in 10 state finals and the first forcoach Will Clark, who took over leadership of the program last spring.
Southern Durham topped Crest in the 2013 state finals 38-31.
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“This means a lot (to) me,” said Harbison, who plans to join Virginia’s football program early in January. “I know that when I was in 10th grade we should have won that game, and we didn’t. To go out there today and win this one the way we did is sweet.”
Southern Durham (12-4) led briefly, at 10-7, after North Carolina recruit Jordan Brown threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Brown, but Crest reeled off 28 straight points on touchdown runs of 28, 2, 72 and 28 yards by Harbison to pull ahead 31-7.
Starting their next possession at Crest’s 40, the Spartans stemmed the bleeding with an eight-play drive, capped by a 5-yard run from Brown that cut the margin to 31-14 at halftime.
Brown, playing at quarterback for just the second week after an injury to erstwhile starter Jalen Greene, scored on runs of 1 and 5 yards in the game’s last 15 minutes, but Harbison scored on runs of 4, 1 and 26 yards as Crest pulled away.
Harbison’s seven touchdowns in a championship game tied him with Albemarle and former N.C. State star T.A. McLendon for second place in the NCHSAA record book. Northern Guilford and North Carolina running back T.J. Logan was the only player ever to run for eight touchdowns in a NCHSAA championship game.
“Harbison is a very powerful, explosive football player,” Southern Durham coach Darius Robinson said.
Justin Foster, with 10 tackles and a sack, was voted Crest’s outstanding defensive player. Quarterback Willie Green, who completed 13 of 21 passes for 163 yards with one interception, was named the Chargers’ outstanding offensive player.
“This meant a lot to me, because a lot of people doubted me when I first took over as quarterback,” Green said. “They thought I couldn’t play the quarterback position or do the things I’ve accomplished in my football career.”
Southern Durham’s Jaleel Scroggins, who had an interception, was named his team’s outstanding defensive player.
Named Southern Durham’s most outstanding player on offense, Brown completed 13 of 33 passes for 225 yards and ran 18 times for 24 yards and two touchdowns.
Crest scored more points on Southern than any opponent since before any of the current Spartans were in kindergarten.
“I believe this means more to our community than it does to the players and myself sitting here,” Clark said. “For those of you who don’t know where we’re from, I believe that if you wanted to rob Boiling Springs, you could do it now. The town is empty right now, I think.
Warnock: 919-829-8951, @ElliottWarnock