For three quarters, all the breaks went Davidson Day’s way in Friday’s N.C. Independent Schools Division II state championship game against SouthLake Christian.
Yet when the Eagles finally got the breaks going their way, they took advantage of them, rallying from a 14-point deficit for a 21-14 overtime victory over the Patriots.
It was the second straight state title for SouthLake Christian (12-1), which won the NCISAA Division III championship last year. It also ended Davidson Day’s three-year run atop the Division II bracket.
Zach Dudan’s 12-yard screen pass to Robert Washington in the Eagles’ overtime possession gave SouthLake its first lead of the game.
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The Eagles’ defense then came up with the stop of the year, with SouthLake defensive back Eric Gallman II bringing down Patriots back Harold Strachan a half-yard short of the end zone on Davidson Day’s final play of its OT possession.
“I knew my kids wouldn’t quit,” Eagles coach Bobby McLaughlin said. “It was just a matter of the kids staying in the game, just keep playing and keep going.”
Yet for all of the attention both team’s offenses have attracted this season, it was the defense that held sway over most of Friday’s game.
The Patriots’ defense held SouthLake to 115 yards total offense, with four interceptions – three of those by Jacob Robinson. But the Eagles’ defense was just as effective, holding Davidson Day to 130 yards offense and forcing two turnovers.
The Patriots took the lead early when Strachan took the opening kickoff 73 yards for a touchdown. A long return on Robinson’s second pick set up Davidson Day’s second score, a 1-yard wildcat keeper by Glen Coates midway through the second quarter.
But things began to swing SouthLake Christian’s way in the fourth quarter.
Kahlil Robinson broke free for a 70-yard punt return in the opening 30 seconds of the period to put the Eagles on the scoreboard. Six minutes later, SouthLake recovered a fumbled punt return, setting up Dudan’s first TD pass, a 24-yarder to D.J. Wilson that tied the score at 14-14.
“I thought with the lead we had, we were in good shape,” Patriots coach Chad Grier said. “But to their credit, they’re a very opportunistic team. That’s what we talked about all week.
“We had our chances, but those are the kinds of things you can’t do against a good team in the fourth quarter.”