Albemarle claims YVC crown, ends losing streak to North Stanly

Published 10:00 am Saturday, October 28, 2023

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The annual football rivalry between two schools separated by five miles of U.S. Highway 52, Albemarle and North Stanly, saw the 57th meeting Friday night.

In 13 of those games, the margin of victory has been seven points or less, including a scoreless tie in 1971.

North (7-3, 3-1) entered the game on a nine-game win streak versus Albemarle (5-5, 3-1) and had not lost to the Bulldogs on the field since 2013. The Comets ended a 20-game losing streak when Albemarle’s win in 2014 was forfeited, which started the nine-game streak.

In a game which saw the fewest points combined by both teams since 1993, Albemarle’s defense limited North to one rushing touchdown and shut out the Comets in the second half to get a 14-7 win and the Yadkin Valley Conference championship.

The 21 points scored was just the 13th time the teams had combined to score 21 points or less and the first since North’s 20-0 win in 1993. Albemarle also limited North to its lowest point in a game this season after the Comets had averaged 31.6 points scored per game.

Friday’s game also marked the 13th time the margin of victory between the two schools has been seven points or less. Including Friday’s win, Albemarle is 8-4-1 in those games.

In the fourth quarter, Albemarle drove to the North 14-yard line, coming within inches of a first down.

North had the ball trailing a touchdown with 2:54 on the clock. The Comets converted two fourth downs on the drive. A long pass from quarterback Chance Blake to wide receiver Dylan Poplin put North at the Bulldogs’ 30-yard line.

The Comets drove to the Albemarle 13-yard line with 8.9 seconds left. After timeout, Blake stepped up in the pocket but was sacked by Albemarle’s Tyquan McDonald. Blake tossed the ball forward but was ruled down by contact. The clock wound down until 0.2 was showing, and North could not get the ball snapped in time as the clock ran out.

Both of Albemarle’s touchdowns in the game came from senior running back Malik Watkins.

His first came on the Bulldogs’ first drive of the game, a 65-yard scoring drive including a 45-yard pass from quarterback Ander Artis to Jason Wall. Watkins, on a delayed give up the middle, avoided several tacklers for a 24-yard touchdown. Javier Cisneros’ extra point gave Albemarle the early 7-0 lead.

“I followed my blocks and did my assignment, what I had to do, and the hole opened up for me,” Watkins said. “I couldn’t have done it without the (offensive) line.”

North tied the game several minutes later in the first quarter, converting a fourth and five from the Bulldogs’ six yard line. Blake scrambled to his right and darted into the right corner of the end zone around the pylon. Kaden Young’s extra point tied the game 7-7.

The game stayed tied through halftime and into the third quarter. Watkins scored the go-ahead touchdown from 12 yards out with 3:12 left in the period.

“My team kept fighting. We weren’t doing too much talking…we stayed on top.”

Albemarle’s defense came up with two goal line stands in the game, one coming late in the second quarter when Kenny Miller tackled Jackson for a loss on fourth down from inside the five-yard line.

The other came with just under nine minutes in the fourth when Zyion Geiger knocked away a Blake pass from Poplin that just bounced off the hands of Jordan Stewart on the deflection.

“Our defense has been lights out all year except for a couple of hiccups,” Albemarle head coach Richard Davis said. “I feel like our defense can play with anybody, and tonight, everybody got a taste of that.”

Regarding the Bulldogs’ efforts in limiting the Comets’ ground game, Davis said, “Our front seven is phenomenal. We haven’t had many people shove the ball down our throats.”

When asked if Bulldogs’ football was back, Davis said, “Absolutely. Words can’t begin to describe what I’m feeling…shoutout to the kids. They worked their butts off all summer long. We kept going through bad times and injuries, but these boys, I told them, ‘When you stay together, you are special.’ Tonight, they stayed together and it showed.”

North Stanly head coach Chad Little said, “I think our defense did pretty well. It was just a good high school football game…it’s a rivalry and there are going to be wins and losses. It’s what happens.”

Regarding the end of the win streak versus Albemarle, Little said, “streaks are made to be broken, so we know that’s going to happen. We will start on year 1 next time; that’s all we can do.”

Little said North had seven starters out Friday night who hope to get healthier this week to get ready for the postseason.

Albemarle, by winning the conference, will get the top 1A seed from the YVC, while North earned its way into the 2A playoffs with last week’s win at Mount Pleasant.

Both will find out this weekend about whom they will face in the first round of the playoffs Nov. 3.

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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