Hardin 'proud' of Pirates, and should be
Both teams looked like they deserved to be in UNC's Kenan Stadium for the 4A championship game on Friday.
It was an absolute shame somebody had to lose such a sensational slugfest, but the 2012 crown went to New Bern High.
The Bears trailed after the first and third quarter, but finally regained the lead with 26 seconds left to eke out a 39-38 victory over Porter Ridge.
"What a game," said New Bern coach Bobby Curlings. "I think everybody got their money's worth. It was back and forth, hat's off to these guys for not giving up."
New Bern not only went 15-0, but got the storybook ending.
Porter Ridge, on the other hand, has to live with coming oh so close.
"Football is a game of inches. We were about an inch short, a play away," said Porter Ridge coach Blair Hardin. "They made plays, we made plays, they just made one more. That's football; that's life.
"I'm proud of my kids, they've been through a lot this year with injuries, suspensions, ejections. The character they have and how they respond each week together is fun to watch and fun to be a part of. I'm proud of how our kids compete. Each week we're outmatched and I don't think that's any secret but our kids will fight you. They just play for each other and that's the best part about being in this profession. They're blessed to be a part of this big event."
Porter Ridge's player and coaches will take the memories of this loss to their graves, and that's no exaggeration. But they also deserve to remember that just a half-dozen years ago, Porter Ridge was the worst football program in Union County.
Blair Hardin took over a program that was 4-29 lifetime, and after a 3-8 start, has gone 47-10 and won four straight conference championships.
For the handful of guys who have played three years of varsity at Porter Ridge, they can claim a 40-5 record.
The two-year varsity players, including senior linebacker Bruce Randall, have a career record of 27-3.
"It's a great experience to be with these guys,," said Randall, who had a game-high 18 tackles and a forced fumble in the state title game. "I'm so proud of them coming out here working with me. You come out here to win state championships but it means more to be with this team. We've been here for four years and I'm going to miss every single one of them."
Randall deflects award
Randall, a 6-foot, 175-pound outside linebacker, was voted the most outstanding defensive player for the West, and accepted it reluctantly.
Randall is a high achiever who prefers to be understated.
The Bears had a couple very elusive ball carriers, and Randall was one of many Pirates who missed some tackles.
"I was shocked," Randall said. "I didn't feel like I deserved it. It's a honor, I guess, but I feel like their are so many other players on this team that deserve it more than I do."
Randall says he "blew it" and feels he "let the team down," but he's being too hard on himself.
He's right, though, when he says several teammates deserved consideration.
Duffy was legendary
Porter Ridge senior Chris Duffy was amazing in the final, and would have been the game's MVP if the Pirates had pulled it out.
Duffy scored three touchdowns — all in the first quarter. He also rushed for 130 yards on 16 carries, intercepted a pass, recovered a fumble and had five tackles.
The media was instructed to vote a most outstanding player on offense and defense for both teams, in addition to an MVP.
Without hesitation, Duffy got my vote for MVP. But because the ballots were collected before the game was over, voters had to list an MVP from each side with the understanding that the top honor is going to the winning team.
Other standouts for Porter Ridge's defense included: junior linebacker Nick Vagnone (11 tackles, forced fumble, fumble recovery); senior linebacker Austin Moore (11 tackles, TFL) and senior end Avery Worsham (9 tackles, 1.5 TFLs), who shared a sack with junior Devyn Cunningham.
Porter Ridge forced five turnovers, including three picks. In addition to Duffy, junior safety Jerrick Robbins and senior safety Xavier York also interceptions.
4A state title game
New Bern 39, Porter Ridge 38
Porter Ridge^21^0^14^3 — 38
New Bern^14^7^12^6 — 39
N - Bra'lon Cherry 11 run (Kyle O'Connor kick)
P - Chris Duffy 2 run (Matt Wogan kick)
P - Duffy 1 run (Wogan kick)
N - Josh Taylor 34 run (O'Connor kick)
P - Duffy 64 run (Wogan kick)
N - Jac Watkins 2 run (O'Connor kick)
P - Luke Bayly 6 pass from Isaiah Hicklin (Wogan kick)
N - Watkins 16 run (kick blocked by Marcus Freeman)
P - Jerrick Robbins 66 run (Wogan kick)
P - Wogan 26 field goal
N - Watkins 2 run (pass failed)
Rushing: PR — Robbins 19-174, Chris Duffy 16-130, Allon Johnson 1-2, Hicklin 4-(-12), Team 1-(-10); NB — Taylor 20-146, Chandler Powell 4-68, Watkins 15-62, Cherry 3-56, Hughes 2-8, Purdie 1-7, L. Grimes 1-6, D. Grimes 1-5.
Passing: PR — Hicklin 9-18-1 106, Wogan 0-1-0; NB — Taylor 14-21-3 160.
Receiving: PR — Bayly 4-47, Wogan 2-30, Isaiah Duffy 1-13, Robbins 1-1, Xavier York 1-5; NB — Powell 6-42, Cherry 3-51, James Fields 1-38, Watkins 1-8, Hughes 1-8, L. Grimes 1-7, Pickett 1-6.