Tarboro wins second straight state title

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Tarboro's Melik Ward, right, celebrates with teammate Zion Brooks on Saturday during the closing seconds of the Vikings' 50-10 win over East Surry in NCHSAA 1-AA state championship game at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh.


Sports Writer

Saturday, December 15, 2018

RALEIGH — The Tarboro Vikings are state champions.

Sound familiar?

This time, playing in the 1-AA championship game at N.C. State’s Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday night against West representative East Surry, they overcame an early 7-0 deficit for a 50-10 final score, clinching their second straight state title, their fifth in nine years and their sixth in program history.

The Cardinals (11-4) looked like trouble early, forcing a fumble of Vikings senior Clifton Joyner late in the first quarter. Linebacker Gunnar Jones scooped up the loose ball for an 18-yard touchdown return and a 7-0 lead.

For the Vikings (15-0), it was their first time trailing in a game since a contest against Pamlico County in October 2017; they started a new streak five minutes of game time later.

After quarterback Kimani McDaniels tied the game up with a 36-yard scramble at the end of the first quarter, Joyner — the one who had fumbled earlier — took a 17-yard pitch for a touchdown with 8:34 remaining in the second quarter to push the lead to 14-7.

McDaniels, who entered the game with only two rushing touchdowns on the season, would add another — this one from 68 yards out on a quarterback rollout to the right to start the third quarter — and finish with 112 yards on the ground to go with his two scores.

Joyner would score another touchdown later in the third, but the flashiest score of the night came from Tarboro’s senior do-it-all captain Keon Caudle, who took a direct snap on a fake punt near midfield and looked like he was shot from a cannon streaking down the right sideline, juking one player on the five-yard line before strolling into the end zone.

That extended the lead to 36-10 and was a final play of trickery in a season defined by superior preparation, great athletes, senior leadership and a whole lot of winning.