2022 NCHSAA 2A Football Championship | East Duplin gets their first stunning Reidsville 24-21

2022 NCHSAA 2A Football Championship | East Duplin gets their first stunning Reidsville 24-21

CHAPEL HILL, NC – East Duplin held off a tough challenge from Reidsville, edging the Rams 24-21 to win their first Football State Championship in school history. Avery Gaby powered the East Duplin rushing attack, carrying the ball 37 times for 184 yards and a touchdown on his way to being named the 2A Most Valuable Player.

A blocked field goal that was recovered by Elam Moore who rumbled 70 yards to give East Duplin a 14-7 lead in the third quarter was the difference in the game. The Ivar De Jong 27-yard attempt was blocked by Rodrigo Sanchez who charged through the middle of the Rams line to get his right hand on it and knock the ball back into the Rams holder. Sanchez was selected as the Panthers’ Most Outstanding Defensive Player for his effort on the defensive line and the blocked field goal.

After East Duplin scored what seemed to be the game-icing touchdown on a fourth and goal at the five when Zack Brown hit Kade Kennedy in the right side of the endzone to go up 24-14 with just 2:16 to play, Reidsville’s Dionte Neal hauled the ensuing kickoff 83 yards to trim the Panther lead to 24-21. It was Neal’s second touchdown of the game and helped cement his selection as the Most Outstanding Offensive Player for the Rams.

East Duplin opened the scoring just 4:02 into the game, churning out an 8-play, 62-yard drive to go up 7-0 on a 1-yard touchdown run by Avery Gaby. Gaby tallied 46 yards on the drive, including a 35-yard gallop into the red zone where he was dragged out of bounds at the Reidsville 3-yard line.

East Duplin dominated time of possession in the first half, holding the ball for 15:50 and racking up 208 yards on the ground in the first half. The Panthers were driving late in the first half when Que’shyne Flippin forced a Nizaya Hall fumble at the Rams 3. Jaden McCain recovered the fumble and got out to the Reidsville 19 before he was helped out of bounds.

That turnover provided Reidsville with a spark as the Rams drove 81 yards in the final 2:43 of the half to tie the game at 7 at the half on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Al Lee to Dionte Neal in the right-side flats. The touchdown capped a 14-play drive for the Rams, their best offensive string of the game.

The Reidsville defense was led by Paul Widerman who had 12 tackles in the game, but Jaden McCain was selected as the Rams Most Outstanding Defensive Performer with 3.5 tackles and a fumble recovery he forced and returned out to the 19. He also hauled in a touchdown pass from 40 yards out that cut the East Duplin lead down to 17-14 with just 7:25 to go in the game.

The Panther offense racked up a total of 292 rushing yards. Nizaya Hall had an outstanding day operating as a change of pace back to the game’s MVP Gaby. Hall carried the ball 14 times for 94 yards on his way to earning the Most Outstanding Offensive Performer Award for the Panthers.

Reidsville finished the season 14-2 and the Rams were the champions of the Mid-State 2A with a perfect record of 6-0 in conference play. The Rams appeared in the school’s 26th State Championship Game all-time, the most by any program in NCHSAA History.

East Duplin finished the season at 15-1. The Panthers won the East Central 2A with a record of 6-0. This was the second regional championship for the Panthers, and their first State Championship appearance since 2017.

The NCHSAA is committed to promoting good sportsmanship at all athletic events and has partnered with the North Carolina Farm Bureau to award two players from participating teams at each State Championship event with the NC Farm Bureau Sportsmanship Awards for their efforts throughout the season. The 2022 2A Football NC Farm Bureau Sportsmanship Award winners were Waylon Sloan from East Duplin and Landon Denney from Reidsville.

Courtesy of James Alverson, Director of Media for the NCHSAA/North Carolina High School Athletic Association