By Charles Curcio, Sports Editor
Sunday, November 24, 2013 —
Friday’s second-round playoff game between the visiting North Stanly Comets and the host West Montgomery Warriors featured a matchup between two teams that had put together some of the best numbers in the respective histories of both schools.
North Stanly’s nine wins marked only the second time in 52 years that the Comets had posted nine wins in a season, while North also set marks in most points for a season as well as posting the school’s first playoff win last week against Bishop McGuinness.
The Warriors, ranked No. 3 in the state in several 1A polls, were one win away from tying a school mark for most wins in a season and longest winning streak ever, as well having the highest points scored per game average in school history and just 78 points away from the most points scored in a season by a West Montgomery team.
North kept the game within two touchdowns through three quarters but the combination of Warrior quarterback Caleb Drake and running back Suave Pegues lifted the Warriors to a 56-34 win in the second round of the 1AA state playoffs.
Drake, who holds several school records for offense, scored four rushing touchdowns and finished with 183 yards on 23 carries.
His teammate in the read-option offense, Pegues, added two touchdowns and led the Warriors (12-1) with 264 yards on 22 carries. Pegues now has 2,344 yards this season for West Montgomery.
The Comets’ 34 points Friday night are the most that the Warriors have surrendered in a game this season.
North running back Lacey Riggins had a big night for the Comets with 73 yards on six carries and two rushing touchdowns as the Warriors’ defense had their sights set on leading Comet rusher Antonio Williams for the entire evening.
Williams had just 57 net yards on 20 carries in the game, giving him a total of 2,154 yards this season and a career total of 3,509 yards in two seasons.
The Comets’ offense also got two passing touchdowns from Meleek Thomas after the senior replaced starting quarterback Noah Crisco, who suffered an injury in the first half of the game. Thomas finished with 63 passing yards and two touchdown throws to Zac Almond.
The Comets took a 6-0 lead after Adrian Brown recovered a West fumble at the Warriors 22-yard line. Riggins scored on the next play on a 22-yard touchdown run. It was the first time the Warriors had trailed since the second week of the regular season when West Montgomery lost 19-9 to Eastern Randolph.
West quickly responded and took the lead from North Stanly with a four-play, 65-yard scoring drive capped off by a Drake 18-yard touchdown run.
The Warriors led 21-6 with two touchdowns within a minute of each other in the second period.
Tirea Sims caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from Drake to finish an eight-play drive, then Pegues scored his 29th career touchdown a minute later to put the Warriors up 21-6.
North’s defense came up with another turnover that led to points late in the first half. Nick Chandler recovered a fumble at the Comets 47, then Riggins broke free three plays later.
For the second straight week, North ran a fake extra point attempt and converted it as Caulder found Almond in the endzone for the two-point conversion.
On the ensuing kickoff, West snatched momentum back as A.J. Collins took the kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown and a 28-14 halftime score.
In the second half, the Warriors scored on their first two possessions and built a 42-14 advantage, but the resilient Comets pulled back to within two scores later in the third quarter.
Thomas found Almond for a 46-yard touchdown pass with 4:27 on the clock to make it 42-21.
At the end of the third, the Warriors’ Drake fumbled the football at the Warrior 33, where Comet defensive lineman T.J. Smith scooped it up and rambled 33 yards down the visiting sidelines for the touchdown. Dylan Blalock’s extra point trimmed the West advantage back to 14 points 42-28.
The fourth quarter, except for the final two minutes, was all West Montgomery as the Warriors held the ball for seven minutes and added two more Drake rushing touchdowns to push the lead back to 28 points.
North added a final touchdown with 19 seconds left in the game when Thomas found Almond in the endzone for a 22-yard score.
“These guys played hard and fought for quarters; I’m proud of them,” North head coach Ralph Jackson said.
Jackson also talked about Thomas’ efforts at quarterback, saying that Thomas “made a huge different; he’s taller and more athletic.”
Regarding the Warriors’ efforts to stop Williams, Jackson said that Williams “understood and honored that,” adding that “he kept saying ‘Feed Lacey; he has the hot hand.’ You do not find a lot of kids that have his star ability that are willing to give it up to somebody else because it’s not his night.”
North Stanly wraps up its 2013 season with a 9-4 record, the first nine-win season for a Comet football team since 1963 when the Comets went 9-1 for head coach Paul Hollingsworth. North also scored 425 points overall in 13 games this season, averaging 32.7 points per game, both of which are school records.
“We will take this season and build on it for next season; we look to go to the third and fourth round next year,” Jackson said.
NS 6 8 14 6 34
WM 7 21 14 14 56
NS – Lacey Riggins 22 run (kick failed), 8:15, 1st
WM – Caleb Drake 18 run (Walker Harrison kick), 6:34, 1st
WM – Tirea Sims 18 pass from Caleb Drake (Harrison kick), 7:46, 2nd
WM – Suave Pegues 32 run (Harrison kick), 6:28, 2nd
NS – Riggins 26 run (Zac Almond pass from Kasey Caulder), 1:22, 2nd
WM – A.J. Collins 85 kickoff return (Harrison kick), 1:07, 2nd
WM – C. Drake 35 run (Harrison kick), 11:44, 3rd
WM – Pegues 15 run (Harrison kick), 8:08, 3rd
NS – Almond 46 pass from Meleek Thomas (Dylan Blalock kick), 4:27, 3rd
NS – T.J. Smith 33 fumble return (Blalock kick), :00, 3rd
WM – C. Drake 5 run (Harrison kick), 8:54, 4th
WM – C. Drake 1 run (Harrison kick), 2:50, 4th
NS – Almond 22 pass from M. Thomas (pass failed), :19, 4th
1st Downs 12 26
Rushing 40-181 48-422
Passing 63 63
C-A-I 3-16-0 4-10-0
Punts 7-35.9 2-40.5
Penalties 11-81 18-174
Fum.-Lst. 1-0 4-3
3rd Down 3-14 2-7
4th Down 0-3 1-2
T.O.P. 24:57 23:03
Rushing: NS – Williams 20-57; Thomas 8-74; Riggins 6-73, 2 TD; Crisco 3-(-11); Cheek 1-4; Moore 1-2; Clark 1-(-1). WM – C. Drake 23-183, 4 TD; Pegues 22-264, 2 TD; Lomax 1-8; TEAM 2-(-18).
Passing: NS – M. Thomas 3-13, 63 yds, 2 TD; Crisco 0-3, 0 yds. WM – C. Drake 4-10, 63 yds, 1 TD.
Receiving: NS – Almond 2-68, 2 TD; Riggins 1-(-5). WM – Sims 3-45, TD; R. Drake 1-27.