The Page Pirates took no prisoners in the second round of the NCHSAA 4-AA playoffs at Marion Kirby Stadium in Greensboro on Friday night. The Pirates’ senior quarterback, Will Jones, ran for three touchdowns and completed three passes to Ronald Polite for scores, but, in the end, Tyler DeBerry’s second-half dominance pushed the Pirates to a 55-26 victory.
The second-ranked Page Pirates (11-1) played host to a (9-3) West Mecklenburg team who had averaged more than 37 points per game this season.
Page gained first possession after West Meck won the opening coin-toss and deferred. The Pirates only glimmer of hope in the first possession was a completion on their first play from scrimmage by Will Jones who was coming off an uncharacteristic off-night last week. The Pirates were held to three-and-out, and West Mecklenburg took over.
On the ninth play of the Hawks’ opening drive Richard Latimer connected with Dyami Brown on the far sideline with 8:24 remaining to begin the scoring. The Hawks lead was short-lived.
Will Jones hit Ronald Polite on the Pirates’ first play of their second possession for a 68-yard touchdown only 23 seconds after West Mecklenburg had opened the scoring. Will Jones and his offense were given another scoring opportunity after an interception by Micah Gafford, and Jones found the sure-handed Polite to take their first lead of the game with 6:04 left in the first quarter.
“(Polite) is a great receiver,” Page’s Jones said postgame. “He doesn’t wear gloves, which a lot of people don’t notice … but he is one of the best receivers in the state.”
Before the end of the first quarter, however, the Pirates found themselves trailing 20-14 on Richard Latimer’s second touchdown pass, and the last play of the opening quarter, a 90-yard punt return by Brown. Tyler DeBerry blocked the extra-point kick following Brown’s return, providing a preview of what was to come from Page’s senior defensive lineman.
After the Pirates relinquished the lead at the end of the first quarter, they wouldn’t trail again.
The second quarter saw touchdown runs from Will Jones and Javon Leake to put the Pirates back in front. The score was 28-20 going into halftime.
The message delivered to the Pirates at halftime must’ve been an inspiring one. They began the second half with a vengeance. Tyler DeBerry, however, said that it was a simple swapping of cleats that changed the game.
“I changed cleats after the second quarter,” he said. “Nothing was wrong, I just changed my cleats.” They must have been magic cleats.
The second half began as West Meck was assessed a personal-foul penalty from the end of the first half. That extra 15 yards led to Thomas Murray putting the opening kickoff into the end zone and the Hawks started from their own 20. Latimer was sacked, threw two incomplete passes, and the Hawks set up in punting formation.
Tyler DeBerry burst through the offensive line that had held him back in the first half to block the punt and recover it in the end zone for a touchdown for the second week in a row.
DeBerry’s contributions to the game were nowhere near finished. Unbelievably, the 5’11” 211-pound defensive star blocked the Hawks’ next punt – his third blocked kick of the night – as well. This time the Pirates took over on the West Meck 17, and, after a quick pass to Polite, Jones ran in two yards for the score. Within the first minute and 52 seconds of the second half the Pirates had chalked up 14 more points.
With the Pirates leading 42-20, Jones hooked up with Polite again from 30 yards out to end the scoring in the third.
The fourth quarter was played without Javon Leake, but it was because the Pirates were up so big, not because of Leake’s high-ankle sprain.
The final twelve minutes saw Jones’ sixth touchdown. The Page onslaught didn’t shoot down the Hawks completely, as they added the final score of the game with 2:25 to play, making the final 55-26.
Page’s Ronald Polite was his humble self as he put his team’s efforts before his own.
“I feel like the team did great as a whole,” he said, “but I felt like I have been off the past couple weeks. I just tried to get back in groove, back to the basics and help bring some offense back to the team.”
Arguably, the happiest man on the field was Page head coach Kevin Gillespie who praised his team and its leaders.
“Obviously, we’ve got some playmakers,” Gillespie said. “They have been making big plays all year and you expect them to do that again. We came out from the opening kickoff ready to get after it, and once we got momentum we took it and rolled with it.”
Will Jones said his attitude toward the game helped him play up to the talent this week.
“My mentality was the biggest difference,” Jones said. “I knew we were playing a great West Mecklenburg team and I seem to play better when I have that mentality.”
Page might’ve caught a big break as the upset of the night came just south of Salisbury where fourth-ranked West Forsyth knocked off undefeated Lake Norman, meaning that the Pirates will play at home once more next Friday night.
Although the Pirates are happy to have another home game, Gillespie knows that it will be tough.
“Anytime you can play at home, go through your same routine, I think it makes it better,” Gillespie conceded. “In high school, I think that’s a good advantage.”
The Pirates (12-1) will look to polish up in the next seven days and be ready when West Forsyth comes to Marion Kirby next Friday.
(WM): Dyami Brown 39 pass from Richard Latimer (Juan Cota kick)
(PAGE): Ronald Polite 68 pass from Will Jones (Thomas Murray kick)
(PAGE): Polite 14 pass from Jones (Murray kick)
(WM): Tyler Barnes 7 pass from Latimer (Cota kick)
(WM): Brown 90 punt return (kick blocked)
(PAGE): Jones 4 run (Murray kick)
(PAGE): Javon Leake 9 run (Murray kick)
(PAGE): Tyler DeBerry blocked punt (Murray kick)
(PAGE): Jones 2 run (Murray kick)
(PAGE): Polite 30 pass from Jones (Murray kick)
(PAGE): Jones 2 run (kick failed)
(WM): Barnes 14 pass from Latimer (pass failed)
Will Jones: (15-24) 259yds, 3TD, INT ; 10 rush, 93yds, 3TD
Ronald Polite: 7 rec 172 yds, 3TD
Javon Leake: 13 rush 56yds, TD
Tyler DeBerry: 4 Sack, 2 Blocked Punts, Blocked PAT, TD
WEST MECKLENBURG STATS:
Richard Latimer: (14-38) 232yds, 3 TD, 2 INT, 2 FUM ; 17 rush 22yds