With a long touchdown drive on its first possession, Kings Mountain delivered an early punch to A.L. Brown in Friday night’s NCHSAA 3AA Western Regional final.
But the rest of the game â€” and the night â€” belonged to the Wonders.
Fourth-seeded Kannapolis took control with a 21-point outburst in the second quarter and slowed down the second-seeded Mountaineers the rest of the way to post a 30-14 victory and advance to its first state championship game since 1997.
“I’m happy for our school and the community,” Kannapolis head coach Ron Massey said. “It’s been a long time since they’ve had an opportunity to go to the state championship. It will be fun.”
The Wonders (13-2)will face defending champion Greensboro Dudley(15-0) for the 3AA state title this Saturday in Winston-Salem.
“It means everything,” senior quarterback Jamill Lott said. “It’s what we wanted. It’s our dream right here. Kings Mountain was another obstacle in our way. We had to step over that and we’re going to states.”
Touchdown runs by Travis Riley and Lott and a touchdown reception by T.J. Johnson put Kannapolis up 21-7 at halftime. A field goal by Morgan McDaniel and a touchdown run by Antwoine Jordan late in the fourth quarter put it away and the Wonders’ celebration was on.
“We’ve got several coaches that have been a part of playing in (the state title) game, and for (the kids) to get the experience is special,” Massey said.
Kings Mountain took the opening kickoff and marched 80 yards on 21 plays, taking 9:30 off the clock for a 7-0 lead.
But an interception by Billy Simiton on the first play of the second quarter turned the momentum.
The turnover and 22-yard return set up Riley’s 1-yard scoring run to tie the game.
“That was tremendous,” Massey said of Simiton’s play.
The Wonders took the lead on their next possession when Lott scrambled around left end for a 12-yard score with 4:40 left in the half.
Kannapolis then tacked on another score right before halftime to push the lead to 14.
Johnson hauled in a 33-yard pass from Lott along the sideline, then outjumped a Kings Mountain defender for an 8-yard score with three seconds left on the clock.
“It really was (big),” Massey said. “We figured we had one more shot in the end zone. We do it every week, work on those goal line pass-routes, and we felt like we had a good matchup there. Jamill threw a great ball and T.J. made a great play.”
Kings Mountain (11-4) got back within 21-14 on a 1-yard run by quarterback Mike Roberts early in the fourth quarter.
But Kannapolis answered right away with a long drive, capped by McDaniel’s 20-yard field goal to make it 24-14 with 5:08 left.
An 11-yard scramble by Lott on 4th-and-8 kept the drive alive.
“That last drive where we were able to run six or seven minutes off the clock and Morgan knocking that through, putting us up like that was big,” Massey said.
Jordan then put the icing on the cake with a 15-yard scoring burst up the middle with 2:28 left.
Lott, Jordan, Riley and Johnathan Williams combined for 144 rushing yards, while Lott threw for 115.
The Wonders’ defense, meanwhile, held Kings Mountain’s potent offense in check after the first drive. The Mountaineers picked up seven first downs on that first possession, but just six more the rest of the game â€” all in the second half.
Roberts, who came into the game with more than 3,000 total yards and 30 touchdowns, was held to just 32 yards on 25 carries by Kannapolis. He threw for 125 yards â€” half of that coming on one pass late in the game.
“The first drive they started out just like they’ve been doing in the playoffs,” Massey said. “After that our defense just played outstanding.
“We didn’t let Roberts escape. We worked so hard to try to contain him.”
*****from Paul Hershey at the independenttribune.com*****