Five key plays in Tarboro's title victory


Tarboro's Jyron Albritton returns a punt for a touchdown Saturday during the NCHSAA 1-AA state championship game at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh.


Sports writer

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The drive for five ended exactly the way the Tarboro Vikings had hoped, with a 32-7 victory that cemented the 2017 Vikings alongside all four title teams of Tarboro past. Here are five plays that shaped the outcome of the game.

Devontae Davis’s first quarter interception

The situation: In a scoreless game late in the first quarter, Mount Airy was driving into Tarboro territory with a chance to give the Vikings their first deficit of the year.

The play: After two straight five-yard penalties on the offense, the Granite Bears faced a first-and-20 around midfield. Quarterback Ian Holder looked deep down the left sideline and fired off an overthrown ball intended for a Mount Airy receiver, which Devontae Davis snagged for the turnover on the doorstep of the goal line.

The impact: Davis’s interception sparked an 88-yard touchdown drive for Tarboro that lasted only two minutes and 29 seconds.

The patchwork punt

The situation: Trailing 6-0 in the second quarter, Mount Airy was forced to bring out the punting unit after a failed third-down conversation in its own territory.

The play: The snap to punter Robert Brown sailed far, far left and, in due fairness, Brown made a heads-up play by scrambling to the ball and getting off the best punt he could. The problem was, Jyron Albritton was in perfect position to catch the punt and return it, untouched, 36 yards for a touchdown.

The impact: An offensive struggle early on for Tarboro was aided by the special teams score, and the Vikings entered the half with a cushion up by 12.

Melik Ward’s third down sack

The situation: Mount Airy had the ball down 12-0 early in the fourth quarter, with a successful couple of plays moving the chains to midfield. After a negative second down for the Granite Bears, a crucial third-and-16 came up.

The play: Tarboro’s Melik Ward broke through the offensive line and sacked Ian Holder for a six-yard loss, forcing a fourth-and-22 and another punt for the Granite Bears.

The impact: The Vikings got the ball back on their own 17-yard line, but a big run of 32 yards by Clifton Joyner Jr. sparked an 83-yard scoring drive to put Tarboro up 18, a tacked-on score that proved important only minutes later.

Donavon Greene’s touchdown catch for Mount Airy

The situation: Up 18-0 midway through the fourth quarter, the parade planning process for Tarboro was in its final stages.

The play: Quarterback Ian Holder scrambled and threw a deep pass into the end zone. Donavon Greene, a receiver with several Division I offers, beat two Tarboro defenders to the ball, securing Mount Airy’s first score of the day and momentarily wrestling momentum from the Vikings.

The impact: Call it luck or call it residual, but the very next play was a perfectly executed onside kick for Robert Brown and the Granite Bears, which gave them the ball back down just two scores.

Zion Brooks’s fourth quarter interception

The situation: After Brown’s kick and recover, the game’s end result seemed reasonably in question in the fourth quarter for the first time all season. Mount Airy had the ball at midfield with a chance to pull within one score.

The play: Junior Zion Brooks read a slant pass perfectly, jumping the route and intercepting Holder for the third time. In the span of a few minutes, the hope meter for Mount Airy went from very little to very high back to very little, all because of Brooks’s play, which essentially clinched the state title for the Vikings.

The impact: The turnover gave the ball back to a Tarboro offense that was beginning to wear down Mount Airy’s defense. It finished in a second touchdown run for Devonta Davis, which pushed the lead to 25-7 with four minutes left.