Vagnone, Suzenvich coming off career nights
If Porter Ridge High beats New Bern in the 4A state championship game in Chapel Hill on Friday, the fourth-round performances of junior Nick Vagnone and senior Ethan Suzenvich deserve to go down in the annals of school history.
The Pirates (13-1) faced their first halftime deficit of the postseason at North Davidson last week before battling back for a 34-27 win in the semifinal slugfest.
Vagnone had a career-high 22 tackles (15 solos, 7 assists) against the Knights — nine more than his previous best of 13 as a sophomore against Marvin Ridge — and also intercepted a pass.
A 6-foot, 190-pound strongside linebacker, Vagnone now has 93 tackles in 13 games this season, giving him a share of the team lead with senior middle linebacker Austin Moore.
As a junior, Vagnone led Porter Ridge in tackles with 95 in 15 games, helping them reach the 4A state championship game and finish 14-1.
In 28 career games, Vagnone now has 188 tackes, six interceptions, five caused fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
Suzenvich (6-1, 230), a three-year starter at center, had a career-high nine pancake blocks against the Knights and was also credited with a sack on the defensive line.
Suzenvich now has a team-best 53 pancakes on the season — 31 more than he had in 2011. His previous career high was an eight-pancake performance against Providence Day on Sept. 21.
As a team, the Pirates had 16 pancakes last Friday, matching their second-highest total of the season.
Senior guard/tackle Conner Hogan (6-4, 255) had five panckakes against North, giving him 47 for the year.
No substitute for experience
Porter Ridge has 10 starters back from last year’s state runner-up team, including seven on defense.
Suzenvich, Hogan and Vagnone were starters in the 42-16 loss to Scotland County on Dec. 3, 2011. Senior safety/running back Chris Duffy is the only active Pirate who started both ways in the state final last year, while senior Matt Wogan started at receiver and kick specialist.
Also expected to start in the state championship for the second year in a row are: senior defensive end Avery Worsham, senior defensive tackle Ryan Dilworth, junior defensive end Luke Bayly, senior weakside linebacker Bruce Randall and senior cornerback Marcus Freeman.
Porter Ridge is now 27-2 over the last two seasons and 40-4 since the start of 2010.
In Union County’s modern era of high school football, dating back to 1961, only one other school besides Porter Ridge has played for the state championship in back-to-back years.
Forest Hills did it in 1984 and 1985. The Yellow Jackets won the 2A state title in 1984, defeating Whiteville 13-6 in the final. The following year, Forest Hills returned to the state championship game as a 3A school, but lost to Williams 7-3.
Forest Hills’ record of 39-3 from 1984-86 marks the most successful stretch of high school football in Union County history (92.9 winning percentage).
Porter Ridge’s 40th victory last week broke the Jackets’ county record for wins over a thre-year span.
Sixteen Pirates have scored this season, one more than last year.
For the second year in a row, Duffy tops the team in scoring. He enters the state title game with 18 touchdowns (17 rushing) and 108 points this season to go along with his 1,320 yards on the ground.
In his two years at Porter Ridge, Duffy has combined for 40 touchdowns and 2,336 rushing yards.
Wogan is a close second in scoring this year with 104 points, which includes two receiving touchowns, 10 field goals and 62 extra points.
Junior Jerrick Robbins, who like Duffy starts in the backfield on both sides of the ball, has also rung up the scoreboard. Robbins has 90 points on 15 TDs, in addition to 1,138 rushing yards.
Bayly has 60 points on 10 touchdowns (nine receiving, one on a fumble return).
Odds and ends ...
... Despite playing with a broken hand, Bayly had his second 100-yard receiving game of the season against the Knights. Bayly caught five passes for 112 yards, giving him team-highs of 38 receptions for 690 yards on the season.
... Porter Ridge is plus-24 on turnovers this season. The Pirates have 39 takeaways (including 19 picks) compared to 15 turnovers. In 2011, Porter Ridge was plus-22 on the season with 36 takeaways and 14 turnovers.
... Since the start of 2010, Porter Ridge has intercepted 70 passes while throwing just 22 picks.