Porter Ridge focused on finishing this time
To take down unbeaten North Davidson in the 4A state semifinal game on Friday, the visiting Porter Ridge Pirates knew they had to be effective in all three phases of the football game.
Easier said than done, but the Pirates pulled it off, and took home a 34-27 win that puts them in the state title game for the second season in a row.
North Davidson (15-1) led 17-10 at halftime, marking the first time all season Porter Ridge has been down at the break.
“I knew our kids would respond,” Pirates coach Blair Hardin said. “We didn’t panic. ... We didn’t change our plan. We made a play early in the second half which really helped kind of give us a lift.”
The momentum-swinging defensive play Hardin refers to took place in the first minute of the third quarter. The Knights wanted to run a screen play out of the backfield, but Porter Ridge sniffed it out. Porter Ridge junior end Luke Bayly closed in quickly on Knights QB Chase Mitchell, and his strip-sack in the endzone was recovered by teammate Avery Worsham.
“We needed a play,” said Worsham of his TD, which tied the game at 17 with 11:10 to play in the third quarter. “We needed a score and hey that was all Luke (Bayly) and Ryan Dilworth getting in the backfield. I just laid on it, it was all on them, that touchdown was theirs; I don’t even take credit for that.”
What Worsham and the entire defense can take credit for is a play that may have swung a sad ending into a championship appearance.
Porter Ridge scored 21 unanswered points in the pivotal third quarter, aided by a 4-yard punt from the Knights.
Junior Jerrick Robbins, who had a team-high 93 rushing yards, scored on a 26-yard run in the third.
“We just knew we could play with them,” Robbins said. “e didn’t change anything; we just dug deep and ran our triple. That’s all we really did. We changed our formation there and just ran triple. We figured we were faster than them so we got outside. We gave the ball to the playmakers and we did our thing.”
The defense came up with its second big play of the half on the first play after the kickoff with Dilworth forcing a fumble.
Robbins’ TD run gave the Pirates an insurmountable 31-17 lead.
“We just had to make our plays. It came down to execution and we weren’t making plays in the first half,” Worsham said of the second-half surge. “We know what it takes to win these big games in front of these big crowds.”
Porter Ridge is now 40-4 since the start of the 2010 season, and Worsham has been a key contributor in all three successful runs.
Like Worsham, Dilworth, cornerback Marcus Freeman and center Ethan Suzenvich, senior kicker Matt Wogan has been there throughout the run of 40 wins in three seasons.
Wogan played a big role in helping his senior class stay alive.
Wogan missed his first field goal attempt of the night, a 51-yarder, but bounced back by hitting from 58 and 49.
“Coach Hardin told me forget about it, next kick,” Wogan said of his miss. “It’s a team effort, Coach Hardin says we’re a family, that’s what we are. No matter what happens, bad, good or anything we are a family.”
Porter Ridge will face 14-0 New Bern in Friday’s state title game.
“Focus on us ... that’s what Coach Hardin told us last week and I guarantee you that’s what he’s going to tell us this week,” Wogan said. “If we do our job good things can happen.”
After getting so close next year, Hardin is determined to find a way to bring home the county’s first state title since 1984 (Forest Hills).
“It’s going to be a business week as usual for us,” Hardin said. “We’re going to prepare like we have all year. The biggest thing is we’ll just reiterate we need to finish better and we must protect the football better.”
N.C. 4A semifinal game
Porter Ridge 34, North Davidson 27
PR^7^3^21^3 - 34
ND^7^10^0^10 - 27
PR - Chris Duffy 1 run (Matt Wogan kick)
ND - Devonte Moore 8 run (Spencer Landfried kick)
ND - Landfried 43 field goal
PR - Wogan 58 field goal
ND - Shy Tuttle 3 run (Landfried kick)
PR - Avery Worsham fumble recovery in endzone (Wogan kick)
PR - Duffy 1 run (Wogan kick)
PR - Jerrick Robbins 26 run (Wogan kick)
PR - Wogan 49 field goal
ND - Landfried 38 field goal
ND - Ashton Phillips 13 pass from Chase Mitchell (Landfried kick)
Porter Ridge^N. Davidson
Rushing: PR - Robbins 12-93, Duffy 17-42, Isaiah Hicklin 7-12, TEAM 4-(-6); ND - Ketrick Eller 4-47, Moore 13-34, Tevin Tuttle 6-27, Conlee Hunter 6-18, S. Tuttle 1-3, Jordan Santana 1-(-4), Mitchell 4-(-4).
Passing: PR - Hicklin 8-18-1 130; ND - Mitchell 21-41-1 225, T. Tuttle 1-1-0 8.
Receiving: PR - Luke Bayly 5-112, Isaiah Duffy 2-17, Robbins 1-1; ND - Phillips 11-136, Santana 6-67, Spencer Arrowood 2-16, T. Tuttle 1-8, Eli Moore 1-5, Moore 1-1.