By Charles Curcio, Sports Editor
Sunday, November 17, 2013 —
The buzzword in the preseason and on into the regular season for the football program at North Stanly High School has been CTC, or change the culture, as head coach Ralph Jackson and the Comets looked to change the way that North Stanly football would be looked at both locally and statewide.
In the 52-year history of the Comet program, the team had only played one previous playoff game, a 28-14 loss at Randleman in 1993.
Twenty years, later, North Stanly made its next appearance in the state playoffs when the Comets hosted Bishop McGuiness, the first home playoff game in North Stanly history.
After a scoreless first half, North scored twice in the last five minutes and earned the first playoff win in the history of the program, 27-14 over the Villains.
Sophomore quarterback Noah Crisco had a huge night for the Comets (9-3), going 8-of-11 for 159 yards and three touchdowns, two of which went to senior wide receiver Zac Almond in the final five minutes of the game.
The unique single-wing offense of Bishop McGuinness (7-5) dominated the first half but did not produce points for the visiting Villains. Bishop held the ball for 16:16 of the first 24 minutes, including a 19-play drive that took all but one minute of the second quarter. However, that drive and the Villains’ two other offensive drives in the first half yielded no points.
Caleb Griffin recovered a Bishop fumble late in the first quarter that set the Comets up on a short field at the Villains’ 23-yard line. Eight plays later, the Comets stalled on fourth and goal from the 6, which is where the Villains’ long drive in the second quarter began. Bishop drove 91 yards down the field on 18 plays, garnering seven first downs and taking 10 minutes off the clock.
However, the 19th play was disasterous for the Villains as North’s T.J. Smith recovered a Villains fumble at the Comet 5-yard line.
In the second half, North took the opening kickoff and drove 60 yards in six plays for the game’s first touchdown. Crisco found senior wideout Kasey Caulder on a screen pass and Caulder worked his way down the Comet sideline for a 52-yard touchdown. Dylan Blalock’s extra point put North up 7-0 with 9:34 left in the third.
“The play was designed pretty much to get a first down; we ended up busting it out with downfield blocking,” Caulder said.
Bishop immediately answered North’s challenge on the Villains’ very next offensive play. Quarterback Andrew Rowley found an open Joe McNamara for a 66-yard pass down the middle of the field. On the next play, Greg Salomon burst around the right side of the line for a nine-yard touchdown, with Logan Howard’s extra point tying the game 7-7.
Fumbles continued to hurt Bishop in the second half as Caulder forced and recovered a Villains fumble late in the third quarter, giving North the ball at the Bishop 45-yard line.
Five plays later, Williams put on a clinic of how to avoid tacklers, avoiding a number of defenders enroute to a 31-yard touchdown run. Blalock’s extra point went wide, leaving the Comets up by six points.
In the fourth quarter, Bishop retook the lead on McNamara’s 25-yard run to the left pylon, with Howard’s extra point putting the visitors up 14-13.
On North’s next possession, a late hit called against Bishop kept the Comets’ drive alive. Two plays later, Crisco found Almond open in the middle of the field. Almond then made a juke move and sped toward the goalline, crashing over the pylon for a touchdown.
“I get to the huddle and Noah says that it’s coming to me and I had to do everything possible to catch it,” Almond said.
North then set up to kick the extra point but ran a fake kick and Caulder found Lacey Riggins in the endzone for a two-point conversion.
The Villains fumbled for a fourth time on the team’s next drive, recovered by Nick Chandler at the Villains’ 37. Six plays and three minutes later, Crisco connected with Almond in the right corner of the endzone for an 11-yard touchdown pass.
“Noah threw a great ball and I jumped up and got it. The offensive lineman gave me time to get it,” Almond said.
Bishop had one final drive in the game, but on fourth and 16, Rowley’s pass was intercepted by Caulder to seal the victory.
“I really can’t put this into words. It’s exhilarating; to go from 2-9 to 9-3 is a complete turnaround,” Jackson said.
“This win means a lot; it’s the last year of football I’ll ever play in my life. (The win) means a lot to the school and to us,” Almond said.
Jackson and the Comets will travel to West Montgomery this Friday night for a rematch with the Warriors. West Montgomery beat North in the regular season on Oct. 18 by a score of 44-19.
“We’ll go right back to work Monday morning,” Jackson said.
BM 0 0 7 7 14
NS 0 0 13 14 27
NS – Kasey Caulder 52 pass from Noah Crisco (Dylan Blalock kick), 9:34, 3rd
BM – Greg Salomon 9 run (Logan Howard kick), 8:55, 3rd
NS – Antonio Williams 31 run (kick failed), 1:25, 3rd
BM – Joe McNamara 25 run (Howard kick), 7:35, 4th
NS – Zac Almond 72 pass from Crisco (Lacey Riggins pass from Caulder), 4:48, 4th
NS – Almond 11 pass from Crisco (kick failed), 1:25, 4th
1st Downs 16 16
Rushing 41-196 38-181
Passing 73 159
C-A-I 3-8-1 8-11-1
Punts 2-18.0 2-27.5
Penalties 3-35 9-80
Fumble-Lost 5-4 2-0
3rd Down 3-8 4-8
4th Down 1-2 1-2
TOP 23:32 24:28
Rushing: BM – Salmon 13-70, TD; McNamara 12-105, TD; Rowley 11-14; Stoltz 3-14; TEAM 2-(-7). NS – Williams 31-194, TD; Riggins 3-6; Moore 1-3; Crisco 1-(-2); TEAM 2-(-20).
Passing: BM – Rowley 3-8, 73 yds, 1 int. NS – Crisco 8-11, 159 yds., 3 TD, 1 int.
Receiving: BM – McNamara 2-72; Zoreitch 1-1. NS – Caulder 3-76, TD; Almond 2-83, 2 TD; Blalock 1-8; Williams 1-0, TEAM 1-(8).