First Posted: 12/12/2009
WINSTON-SALEM As the old clich goes, football is a game of inches.
And it was by those slimmest of margins that the 2009 Mount Airy Granite Bears season came to a disappointing end Saturday, as the Bears lost an overtime thriller to the Wallace-Rose Hill Bulldogs, 38-37 in the 1A title game.
The Bulldogs scored on a two-point conversion on their first overtime possession to snap Mount Airys 31-game win streak and dethrone the Bears as the 1A state champion.
After Mount Airys Ben Hinson found tight end Stephen Hart on third-and-6 in the left corner of the end zone on the Bears first overtime possession, Mount Airy led 37-30.
The Bears defense then pushed Bulldogs to the brink, but quarterback Dawan McKinzie plunged in from one-yard out on fourth down to keep Rose Hill alive.
While Mount Airy had elected to go for the extra point following its score, Rose Hill coach Joey Price decided to lay it all on the line and attempt a game deciding two-point conversion.
On the final play of the season, Rose Hill back Omar Carr rode a big push by the Bulldogs front line straight up the gut, just barely breaking the goal line from three yards out, while breaking Mount Airys spirits in the process.
I was in favor of it, the team was in favor of it and its not the first time Ive put us a situation like that, Price said of the gutsy call. Youve just got to do it. You make a call and you live with it. Ive always thought how awful it is to put it on a kicker to tie a game when you can put it on your whole team to go for it and win.
Mount Airy coach Kelly Holder gave credit to his opposition for the move, but said he thought his team would still be the winners no matter Rose-Hills decision.
Ill be honest with you, although Im going to contradict myself, I think it was a great call by him, but when he did make it I was pretty confident we were going to win, Holder said. I think both teams were having a little trouble stopping each other but I was pretty confident in ourselves that we could stop them, but we just couldnt quite do it.
Carr couldnt have made the goal by more than half of a foot, and the final call might still be up for debate, depending on which side of the field you happened to be standing when the game came to an end.
They put me in the end zone and I kept moving my feet, Carr said of his game winning push. I didnt know I was in, but when he (the referee) raised his arms I was happy.
Mount Airy captain Luke Wheeler took a diplomatic approach.
Its a tough question, Wheeler said. Some are going to say he was in by a lot, some are going to say he barely made it and youre going to have some people who say he didnt make it at all. Thats how its always going to be. Im going to say he did get in, because thats what the referees said, but as a football player for the Mount Airy Bears, Im going to say he didnt get in. It could have went either way. From my view it was close.
It was a Jose Flores 38-yard field goal with 2:08 remaining which sent the game into overtime.
The Bears had a chance to win on their final drive, but Ben Hinsons pass on third down was intercepted by the Bulldogs Torrey Hall, who returned the ball to Rose Hills own 44 yard line with 40 seconds remaining.
But while the Bears lost a late lead, it was Rose Hill who gave up momentum following a solid first half, as Mount Airy came back from a 27-16 third quarter deficit to take a 30-27 lead on an Andy Temoney three yard run with 11 minutes left in the final period.
After Luke Wheeler fumbled on the Bears final drive of the first half, Rose Hill stalled deep inside Mount Airy territory and the Bears narrowly avoided disaster and a two-touchdown half time deficit.
Rose Hills Devonta Herring opened up the second half with a 24-yard touchdown run, his second of the game, and the Bulldogs seemed to be firmly in the drivers seat.
But just as they had one week prior against Robbinsville, Mount Airy mounted a blazing comeback, pumping up their oversized crowd and pulling the game back in their favor.
Nobody even really expected us to make it this far this year, Wheeler said. Nobody expected us to be 15-0 coming into this game and we werent even expected to be here at Wake Forest. So Im proud of what our team has done this year. For us coming together like we did and the crazy win last week and almost another crazy win this week, you know, we fought and that was one of our mottos this week. That was one of the biggest things all year is fight and I felt like we fought well in the second half.
Hinson started things off with a big 20-yard run on first down and the Bears followed that with a healthy dose of Temoney and Wheeler, who combined for 39 yards on six rushes to carry the load on the scoring drive.
The ensuing kickoff was misplayed by Rose Hill, forcing the Bulldogs to start from their own eight-yard line. After the Bears held Rose Hill to just five yards and a near interception by Justin Collier, the Bulldogs long snapper snapped it high over the punters head and out of the back of the end zone for a safety, giving Mount Airy two points and the ball with 4:46 left in the third.
Mount Airy stalled on its next drive, but again forced Rose Hill to start deep in its own territory. On third-and-1 from their own 15, the Bulldogs were called for offside. Rose Hill then fumbled on its next play and Mount Airys Daryl Valentine recovered at the Bulldogs 17.
The Bears moved backwards on the first two plays of their ensuing possession, but Hinson hooked up with Wheeler for a 13-yard gain and a first down deep in Rose Hill territory to keep the drive alive.
Two plays later, Temoney found his way in from three yards out and the Bears took the lead 30-27 with 11:06 remaining.
After both teams stalled on their ensuing possessions, Rose Hill mounted its longest and most important possession of the game, a 10-play, 54-yard scoring drive, which ended in the Flores field goal.
As time wore down, the absence of Mount Airy kicker Tyler Hull, who connected on a 33-yard field goal early in the first half, became more noticeable, as the senior was out the majority of the second half with a knee injury, taking away one of the Bears most potent weapons.
Its big for us, Holder said of Hulls injury. Its big for us on kickoff because I dont know of a game this year that he hasnt kicked a touchback and thats big against a team thats athletic like that. They beat us once or twice on a return, but I thought our young kid came in and made a big one and hes never kicked in a varsity game before, but anytime you lose a player like Tyler Hull its pretty big.
While everyone will remember the final two-point conversion, the story of the game comes down to the Wallace-Rose Hill rushing attack.
The Bulldogs combined for 296 total yards on the ground, outgaining Mount Airys vaunted attack by 99 yards.
The final running total for the Bulldogs is the most a Mount Airy team has given up in more than two seasons.
Weve thrown the ball all year long but we only do it when people make us, Price said. Why throw the ball when you have three 1,000-yard rushers?
Mount Airy defensive coordinator Chris Johnson said the Rose Hill offensive line was tougher to penetrate than the Bears expected and the backs were able to make plays when it mattered.
We thought we made some adjustments at half time and came up with some gimmicks that might could get us off the field and it worked at times, Johnson said. The bottom line was they were better than we had thought they would be and those guys up front pushed us around a little better than we thought they would. Those kids could scoot and they just out-executed us.
Wheeler said the rushing yards werent because a lack of effort on the Bears side, it was just a solid effort on Rose Hills part.
I felt like we were getting to the ball well today but we just werent making tackles for some reason, call it will, I dont know what you call it, Wheeler said. Coach Johnsons scheme should have worked well for us because we were there to make plays, we just didnt finish. Hats off to Wallace-Rose Hill, they ran hard, they knew what to do. They were killing us with jets there early and we finally stopped that but hats off to them, they played a great game.
Carr and Herring led the way for the Bulldog ground game, as Carr finished with 118 yards on 21 carries and Herring added 119 yards on 12 carries for two scores. Bobby Crawford had 80 yards and a touchdown, while Rose Hills quarterback McKinzie finished 4-of-13 for 105 yards and one touchdown.
For Mount Airy, Wheeler and Temoney had near identical stat lines, with Wheeler running for 85 yards on 12 carries for two scores, while Temoney had 81 yards on 18 carries for two touchdowns. Wheeler also had five catches for 58 yards and had 10.5 tackles, two sacks, four tackles for a loss and one forced fumble on defense.
Ben Hinson was 12-of-23 for 147 yards with one touchdown and one interception and Justin Collier added three catches for 68 yards.
While the outcome was no doubt less than what Mount Airy had hoped for, coach Donald Price put things in perspective.
This group of kids is just a great group, Price said. One to none they are loyal to each other, they are going to battle for each other, they are just one unit. Thats what got us the opportunity to play today. There were no individuals, they were all part of a team. They did whatever was asked of them and whatever was needed and they left it on the field every night. You cant ask for more than that. They are just a great group of kids with a lot of character. Just proud of them to get an opportunity to play today.
Contact Thomas Smith at [email protected] or 719-1920.
Wallace-Rose Hill 38,
Mount Airy 37 OT
WRH 6 14 7 3 8 38
MA 0 16 7 6 7 37
WRH Carr 15 pass from McKinzie (kick fail) 4:22
MA Wheeler 50 run (kick fail) 11:52
MA Temoney 18 run (Hull kick) 9:01
WRH Herring 24 run (Flores kick) 7:26
MA Hull 33 field goal 3:13
WRH Crawford 43 run (Flores kick) 1:01
WRH Herring 24 run (Flores kick) 9:57
MA Wheeler 4 run (kick fail) 6:14
MA WRH Safety 4:46
MA Temoney 3 run (kick fail) 11:06
WRH Flores 38 field goal 2:08
MA Hart 6 from Hinson (Wright kick)
WRH McKinzie 1 run (Carr rush)
RUSHING MA – Wheeler 12-85-2 tds; Temoney 18-81-2 tds; Hinson 8-56; WRH – Herring 12-119-2 tds; Carr 21-118; Crawford 8-80-1 td; Dunn 2-14; Miller 2-7; Drakeford 1-1; McKinzie 5-4; PASSING MA – Hinson 12-23-1 147-1 td; WRH – McKinzie 4-13 105-1td; RECIEVING MA – Wheeler 5-58; Collier 3-68; Simmons 2-11; Hart 1-6-1td; Marion 1-4; WRH – Hall 2-57; Lamb 1-33; Carr 1-15-1td; DEFENSE MA – Wheeler 10.5 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble; J. Moore 7.5 tackles; Temoney 7.5 tackles; WRH – T. McKinzie 7.5 tackles; K. Burrs 7.5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss; T. Hall 6 tackles, 1 INT for 24 yards