The Charlotte Christian Knights’ quest for a fourth straight NCISAA state football title ended Friday night as the Charlotte Latin Hawks pulled off the upset 14-7 at Christian.
The Hawks will play Davidson Day next Friday in the NCISAA state title game. Davidson Day held off Providence Day 29-22 in the other NCISAA semi-final Friday. Latin avenged a heartbreaking overtime loss last season to the Knights in the state final game.
Trailing 7-0 and after struggling in the first half with only 72 yards of total offense, Latin took command in the second half by scoring 14 points and shutting out Christian. “I think we had very correctable mistakes that we made in the first half,” said Latin quarterback Bates Jones. “We corrected those and we came out (in the second half) with a very different mindset. We had more heart, we knew could win and we executed in the second half.”
Jones had a second half to remember going 9-of-9 for 157 yards and one touchdown pass. Jones also rushed for the winning score from a yard out with 57 seconds left in the game.
Hawks wide receiver/running back Melvin Rouse was a big playmaker in the game, scoring Latin’s first touchdown on a 38-yard catch-and-run play. Rouse also carried the ball seven times for 62 yards and had an interception on defense.
Latin’s defense was strong, particularly shutting down Christian’s top running backs Elijah Deveaux and Justus Woods. Deveaux finished with just 34 yards on 14 carries, while Woods had just 61 yards on 12 carries.
“They have outstanding running backs and that was a goal of ours to try to slow them down.” said Latin coach Larry McNulty. “We were able to get a lot of hats on them.”
The winning, fourth-quarter drive for Latin was a signature one. The Hawks started on their own 14-yard line with 7:23 left in the fourth quarter. The 12-play, 86-yard scoring drive ate up six and a half minutes of clock and gave Christian only 57 seconds to try to tie the game.
For Christian coach Jason Estep, it was a tough end to a terrific streak of three straight state titles. “Hats off to coach Mac (Latin Coach Larry McNulty) and his staff. The kids over there they played great. They made more plays than we did. We had some missed opportunities, and they capitalized when they needed to and we didn’t. I hate it for these seniors because the guys that are graduating this year have been the most successful class we’ve ever had.”
WORTH MENTIONING: The seven points scored for the Knights were their third fewest of the season … Christian won the regular-season matchup 24-7 at Latin on October 2.
QUOTE: “He was my quarterback at Latin many moons ago. We talk all the time, and this week we said, ‘wouldn’t it be something if we both won our semi-final games and played each other in the final.’ ” Latin coach Larry McNulty on Davidson Day coach Chad Grier.
RECORDS: Charlotte Latin (8-3), Charlotte Christian (7-4)
WHAT’S NEXT: The season is over for Charlotte Christian while Latin advances to the NCISAA state final game against Davidson Day next Friday.