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Defense carries Shelby to another NC 2A football title

Shelby’s offense didn’t have its best game of the season, especially in the first half of Saturday’s N.C. public schools 2A state finals.

Still, thanks to the Golden Lions’ defense, they’re taking another championship trophy back to Shelby after beating Clinton 31-7 at BB&T Field.

Chad Reid ran for a season-best 169 yards and two touchdowns, and was named the championship game’s most valuable player as Shelby (14-2) won its second straight 2A state title and the seventh in school history.

But it was the play of the Golden Lions’ defense that made it possible, shutting down a Dark Horses offense that averaged nearly 40 points per game this season.

“They’ve come through like that in the past,” Shelby coach Lance Ware said. “I trust our defense – we’re going to hang our hat on our defense. I’ve always been taught that defense wins championships, and that’s why we’re here today.”

That was especially the case in the first half.

While the Golden Lions came away with a 10-7 lead at the break, their offense also turned the ball over three times on fumbles – the third coming deep in Shelby territory that could have given Clinton the halftime lead.

However, the Dark Horses (13-2) came away with zero points from the turnovers. Clinton never really put itself in scoring position after Ryheem Skinner’s 38-yard touchdown run on the opening possession.

“We saw a weak point, and just went after it,” said Golden Lions defensive end Chavon Miller, who had 10 tackles and a team-best 3.5 sacks. “We went at their quarterback, we went at their running backs, just trying to get those negative yards.”

All told, Shelby’s defense held the Dark Horses to just seven first downs and 117 total yards – 94 yards rushing (nearly 200 yards below their season average) and 23 passing.

By comparison, the Golden Lions’ offense finished with 24 first downs and 418 total yards – 284 rushing and 134 passing.

“When they’re getting in the backfield like they did, there’s not a whole lot you can do,” said Clinton quarterback Aaron Viser, who was sacked four times.

“We couldn’t run against that, we couldn’t pass against that. You can’t do anything against a defense when they’re playing that well.”

Shelby’s defense also opened things up for the offense, forcing a pair of turnovers that led to two of the Golden Lions’ three second-half touchdowns.

“Our defense carried us all through the playoffs,” said Shelby quarterback R.J. George, who threw for 134 yards and had a 16-yard TD run late in the third quarter.

“They weren’t really giving up a lot of yards, and a lot of teams weren’t scoring. They carried us one more weekend.”