There was little to separate Charlotte Christian and Charlotte Latin in their N.C. Independent Schools Division I football championship game Friday.
But Christian put a quick and decisive end to it all in overtime, beating Latin 28-21 for the Knights’ record third consecutive state title.
Junior running back Elijah Deveaux scored on a 10-yard run on Christian’s only offensive play in overtime. And when defensive back Jeremiah White intercepted a pass by Latin quarterback Daniel Jones on the Hawks’ second offensive play, it was over.
“We had faith,” Knights quarterback John Turley said. “On the first play, we pounded it in. Then we trusted our defense, and they went out and made a play and won the game. Just unbelievable.”
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The Knights (11-1) were the only team to beat the Hawks (10-2) this season. Christian won their regular-season game 40-30. This one, with the stakes higher, was every bit as tight.
With Deveaux running for 157 yards and accounting for all four Knights touchdowns (running for three and throwing for another), Christian was able to move the ball for much of the cold evening. But the Hawks, led by shifty sophomore receiver Melvin Rouse and Jones, stayed with the Knights.
Latin scored first when Jones found Alex Massardo behind the secondary for a 40-yard scoring pass with 8 minutes, 48 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Knights answered early in the second quarter on an 8-yard run by Deveaux, then went ahead 14-7 when Deveaux threw a 34-yard scoring pass to Turley, who had handed off to Deveaux and slipped into the Hawks secondary, with two minutes left in the half.
The game opened up in the third quarter. Latin tied it on its first possession when Rouse threw a 32-yard option touchdown pass to Kanyon Tuttle. Another touchdown by Deveaux, this one a 40-yard run, gave the lead back to Christian.
And after Rouse returned the ensuing kickoff 75 yards to the Christian 21, the Hawks scored again on a 12-yard pass from Jones to Owen Armstrong, tying it at 21.
The Knights couldn’t take advantage of two Hawks mistakes in the fourth quarter that might have ended the game in regulation.
With the score still tied, White intercepted Jones with 6:28 remaining. But Christian’s offense stalled. On the Hawks’ next possession, Rouse was stripped of the ball by Grant Armistead, with Connor Maitland recovering.
This time, the Knights worked the ball into field-goal range for kicker Jackson VanSickle, but his 44-yard attempt as time expired was blocked by Strouse.
Christian kept the momentum into the overtime period. Deveaux and White made the plays to win it as Christian’s students, who had surrounded the field in anticipation, ran out to celebrate.
“Latin played a great game,” Turley said. “They gave us their best and shot and we gave them our best shot. You couldn’t ask for anything more in a state championship game.”