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Tarboro wins fifth state championship

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Tarboro's Melik Ward celebrates Saturday following the Vikings' 32-7 win over Mount Airy in NCHSAA 1-AA state championship game at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh.

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BY SAMUEL EVERS
Sports Writer

Saturday, December 9, 2017

RALEIGH —- The snow, the rain, the sleet and the cold only seemed to serve Tarboro. The undefeated Vikings this season were ground-and-pound specialists, anyways, not passing experts.

On a stingy state title Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium, a faithful and bundled crowd from Tarboro watched its team clinch title No. 5 against Western opponent Mount Airy (14-1), a 32-7 final in a contest that favored a few key defensive possessions far more than flashy plays.

It was the second smallest offensive output of the year for Tarboro — a season that ended a perfect 15-0 — but the statistics weren’t exactly the first priority for Vikings’ coach Jeff Craddock when the final kneel down was recorded, especially not with the possibility of a Gatorade bath as the final seconds ticked away.

Stats-wise, Mount Airy entered the state title game with three prolific players at quarterback, wide receiver and running back, respectively, and they flashed that for a brief moment midway through the fourth quarter, when Ian Holder lofted a pass to receiver Donavon Greene, who wrestled a 36-yard touchdown away from two Tarboro defenders.

With the extra-point, suddenly a formality became interesting, especially after kicker Robert Brown recovered his own ensuing onside kick.

Two plays later, however, with the Granite Bears down just 11 at midfield, Tarboro’s Zion Brooks jumped a slant route for an interception. Four plays after that, Deontae Williams was rushing in the title-clinching touchdown. Jaquez Edge punched in another a few minutes later for good measure.

In all, the Granite Bears totaled just four possessions in Tarboro territory. Kicker Robert Brown punted away five possessions, the most costly of which came in the second quarter, when an errant snap flew past Brown’s head. In an attempt to salvage some field position, he recovered the ball about 30 yards from the line of scrimmage and booted it away.

An opportunistic Jyron Albritton was waiting for it.

He hauled in the makeshift punt at the 36-yard line and did the rest, returning the play for a touchdown and a 12-0 lead.

Tarboro had taken the lead earlier in the second quarter on a six-yard run by Keon Caudle, which capped an 88-yard drive that started with an interception of Mount Airy quarterback Ian Holder.

An 18-0 lead for the Vikings was taken with 6:38 left in the game after a scoreless third quarter -- a one-yard dive from Deontae Williams.

It looked for all the world like the scoring for both teams would stop there, but then came the flurry, started by Mount Airy’s long touchdown pass.

But it was too little, too late. And soon after the adrenaline of that play died down, the Tarboro Vikings were state champions for the fourth time in nine years.

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