North Stanly, West Stanly go down to the wire in football clash

Published 1:28 am Saturday, September 10, 2022

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The 59th meeting all-time between the varsity football teams of North Stanly and West Stanly came down to the final minutes to decide a winner.

West Stanly, looking to secure the Stanly Cup, scored a go-ahead touchdown with just over a minute left in regulation.

However, the host Comets used a play put in just this week for a long touchdown pass and a 24-21 last second victory.

The win for North (2-2) denies the Stanly Cup momentarily for West (3-1), who had a 2-0 county record coming into the game.

North found lightning in a bottle, trailing 21-17 with less than a minute to play on the team’s 31-yard line.

West had just driven 75 yards in 12 plays, including a pass interference call on fourth down which kept the Colts’ drive alive. West finished it on the next play with Sawyer Gibbs’ 19-yard touchdown run with 1:02 on the clock.

After two incompletions, including one which went through the hands of a West defender, Comets quarterback Chance Blake faced a third down with 69 yards between the Comets and the end zone.

The play on third down called for running back Cam Smith, who had already carried the ball 18 times in the game, to line up in the slot on the left side of the line. West rushed four and dropped seven into coverage, but Smith found space in the middle of the field as he turned inward from the left.

“I knew it was going to be a big moment,” Smith said. “I knew it was coming to me…we knew we were going to get (West) with something we had not run before (in a game). As soon as I came out of the route, I saw the middle wide open, and Chance hit me.”

Smith took off for the home sideline, getting a lead block from B.A. Harris and went 69 yards for the touchdown with 32 seconds left.

Getting passes complete in the middle of the field was the game plan, Blake said, adding he struggled in the first half. The North QB was 3-for-7 for 60 yards in the first and ended up 6-for-15 for 163 yards and two touchdowns.

Blake also threw a 19-yard TD pass to B.A. Harris coming out of the halftime break, which gave the Comets the lead for most of the second half.

West scored on the opening drive when QB Carson Morton bootlegged to the left for an eight-yard score.

Smith, who finished with 144 rushing yards, scored early in the second period to tie the game 7-7.

Later in the second, Jacob Starnes came up with a big special teams play, blocking a punt, corralling the loose ball and taking it 23 yards for a touchdown. The special teams play gave West the lead at halftime, 14-10, after North’s Kaden Young delivered a 30-yard field goal in the final two minutes of the second quarter.

Smith said the team had a lot of doubters coming into the game after losing 49-0 at North Rowan last week.

“Nobody thought we were going to win this (game),” Smith said. “It was a hard, competitive game, but we knew we had it in the bag.”

Regarding the middle of the field, Crisco said he and the North coaching staff thought the Comets could be successful in the middle of the field with the pass.

“We just put that play in this week. We set it up in the third quarter with an empty backfield,” Crisco said.

Blake “had a coming out party tonight” with his efforts, the North coach said.

He also talked about Smith, saying he is a different running back from last year.

“He’s putting the foot in the ground and going. He’s lowering the shoulder and getting extra yards; he’s not going down on the first contact,” Crisco said.

Crisco credited his coaching staff for keeping North’s players calm and ready after West took the lead late.

“We knew there was going to be adversity. We’re going to fall behind; there’s going to be a turnover, some bad calls won’t go our way. We can’t sit back and dwell on it; we have to go back and play the next play,” the North coach said.

North Stanly’s final non-conference game of the season will be on the road Friday at Randleman (3-1). The Tigers won 38-7 at home Friday night over Ben L. Smith.

West Stanly has two more non-conference games left this season including Friday’s road game at Oak Grove (4-0). The 3A Grizzlies won Friday at home 47-7 over Lexington.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio has served as the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press for more than 16 years and has written numerous news and feature storeis as well. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also won an award from Boone Newspapers, and has won four North Carolina Press Association awards.

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