First Posted: 11/27/2009
Its hard to believe Princeton had a hard time finding Luke Wheeler when he spent so much time running along its sideline.
The Mount Airy senior scored four touchdowns and rushed for a game-high 191 yards to give Mount Airy (14-0) its 30th consecutive win in a 51-20 victory over Princeton (10-4) in the third round of the NCHSAA 1A playoffs.
The Granite Bears broke open a 14-14 game by shutting down the pass-first Princeton offense for the second and third quarters.
It was a big challenge at first, Wheeler, the Northwest 1A/2A defensive player of the year, said. Everybody talks about how we struggle against the pass on defense.
The Bulldogs were successful throwing the ball in the first and fourth quarters. All together, quarterback David Gurganus threw for 309 yards and produced a pair of 100-yard receivers.
One of the big things we talked about this week is we can bend as a defense, we cant break, Wheeler said. We did a good job of keeping our cool.
Princetons offense came out throwing drag routes that threw off the Granite Bears defense. So Mount Airy tweaked its gameplan to help out with passes over the middle. It worked, as the defense held and the offense scored twice more a 6-yard run from Andy Temoney and a 65-yarder courtesy of Wheeler to take a 28-14 halftime lead.
Wheeler had a long reception during the home teams first possession that nearly went for a score and found the end zone on a 27-yard run the next time Mount Airy got the ball. Both plays went down the Princeton sideline.
During a timeout in the second quarter, Princeton coaches took turns serenading their players with a single message: Look for 42.
I heard them, Wheeler said before deflecting credit to the men clearing the way for him. Its funny because they need to be watching out for a whole lot more than me. I just follow the big men up front. They need to be yelling look out for 70, 55, 75, 50 and 72.
Those numbers would be, in order, Daryl Valentine, Brooks Mayberry, Josh Smith, Max Inman and Nick Ricks.
Some linemen, Brooks and Valentine in particular, played both ways most of the night. The defensive line had Gurganus scrambling most of the time.
If you can get pressure on him, thats the key, Mount Airy coach Kelly Holder said. When you play a team like that, you need safety help and that takes away from that pressure. Youre in a game where youve got to decide what bullet you want to bite.
Thanks to the offense and safety from the defense, Mount Airy could have allowed 50 points and still won the game. Wheeler scored on runs of 27, 65 and 34 yards. He also caught a 5-yard touchdown pass. Temoney had 73 yards on the ground and scored twice.
Granite Bears quarterback Ben Hinson threw for 181 yards, including a 66-yard scoring strike to Justin Collier, who had 87 receiving yards. Wheeler added 80 yards receiving.
Mount Airy will face Robbinsville (11-2) next Friday night at Wallace Shelton Stadium.
Contact Ed Phillipps at [email protected] or 719-1921.