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Tarboro repeats 1AA football title; East Surry shows grit in loss

The Tarboro Vikings completed a second consecutive unbeaten season with a resounding 50-10 victory over East Surry on Saturday in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1AA championship game at Carter-Finley Stadium.

The Vikings (15-0) repeated as 1AA champions and scored at least 50 points for the tenth time in 2018. The Cardinals (11-4) did keep things close in the first half, trailing just 14-10 at intermission.

The Vikings’ speed just proved too much for the Cardinals in the second half as quarterback Kimani McDaniels raced past East Surry defenders for a 66-yard touchdown on the third play.

On the next drive, Clifton Joyner scored on a 1-yard run which was set up by a Jyron Albritton’s 30-yard scamper. Then just before the end of the third quarter, Keon Caudle scored on a 40-yard fake punt run to give Tarboro a commanding 36-10 lead entering the final period.

The Vikings defense did not allow East Surry to have a drive of more than three plays in the second half. In the first half, the Cardinals had drives of 18 and 16 plays.

To say Tarboro dominated on the ground is an understatement, outrushing East Surry 442-0. The Vikings only attempted one pass.

“These guys didn’t blink at all,” said Tarboro head coach Jeff Craddock. “We tried to limit our mistakes (after halftime) and I thought we responded tremendously. We made a few tweaks on our blocking assignments and tried to get the edge set outside.”

The Cardinals actually scored first when Gunnar Jones returned a 19-yard fumble for a touchdown with 4:02 left in the opening period to go up 7-0. It was the first time all season the Vikings had trailed in a game.

McDaniels, Joyner, and Caudle all scored twice for the winners, while Jaquez Edge also found the end zone on a four-yard run.

TARBORO SENIORS GET ANOTHER

The current Tarboro era is rivaling the one at the beginning of the decade when Todd Gurley played for the Vikings and helped the team capture three state titles in a row.

Tarboro has won five total state championships since 2009 (three at the 2A level) and also captured a 3A crown back in the 1980s.

There was a slight lull from 2013-2015, but since entering the 1A classification, the Vikings have regained their mojo. They have not lost a game since the 2016 Eastern finals.

“I’m so proud of this year’s senior class,” said Craddock about a team that features 23 seniors. “We’ve had great leadership all year, in the weight room, in the classroom, and out in the community.”

Caudle, Edge, Albritton, and Joyner have each rushed for over 900 yards on the season. Caudle led the Vikings with 1,033 yards following the title game.

Tarboro easily won the Coastal Plains 1A Conference and the defense posted seven shutouts on the year.

Senior Melik Ward, who won Defensive Player of the Game and conference Defensive Player of the Year, led the Vikings defensive line. Classmates Zion Brooks, Hunter Medord and junior  Jay’Vies Massenburg also start on the line.

During the playoffs, the Vikings outscored North and South Stanly by a combined score of 90-6, before easily defeating Edenton Holmes 48-7 in the Eastern finals.

Tarboro players celebrate their second consecutive state title at the start of the trophy presentation. The Tarboro Vikings played against the East Surry Cardinals for the NCHSAA 1AA Football State Championship on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. (Ray Black III for EducationNC)

EAST SURRY PROVED DOUBTERS WRONG

East Surry juniors Jefferson Boaz and Stephen Gosnell helped the Cardinals explode on offense this season, to the beat of 44 points per game heading into the title contest.

The duo led East Surry to its first-ever state championship game appearance, with Boaz throwing 20 touchdown passes and Gosnell accounting for 31 total touchdowns. Even though Saturday’s game did not go the way the Cardinals had hoped, it was a major step in the right direction.

“No one expected East Surry to be here in the first place,” said Cardinals head coach Trent Lowman. “This was our expectation though, and we’ll do our best to come back.”

The Cardinals had lost nonconference games to West Stokes and Ragsdale, but a 31-28 defeat to Mount Airy cost them the Northwest Conference title.

East Surry avenged that loss in a big way, shutting No. 1 seed Mount Airy out 40-0 in the second round of the playoffs. The Cardinals then took their road warrior mentality to Starmount and outgunned them 44-27 to win the 1AA West.

Junior Hoyt Bullington led the Cardinals with 19 tackles against Tarboro and finished with 126 on the year.

East Surry captains pose for a photo with the state runner-up plaque. The Tarboro Vikings played against the East Surry Cardinals for the NCHSAA 1AA Football State Championship on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. (Ray Black III for EducationNC)
Dave Malenick

Dave Malenick is an Instructor at Central Carolina Community College in Sanford, NC. He has covered high school sports for over 20 years, beginning in central New York State and then moving to North Carolina in 1998, where Dave has mostly worked as a correspondent for The News & Observer.