Published: Dec 05, 2012 03:39 PM
Modified: Dec 05, 2012 03:41 PM
One minute less or one minute more and Carrboro probably would have won.
That was hard for the previously Jaguar players to stomach Saturday night as they stood on the field at Carter-Finley Stadium, fighting to hold their emotions in check as they watched Southern Iredell accept the N.C. High School Athletic Association 2AA football championship trophy.
"It’s good that we got this far," said Carrboro sophomore Rowe Mellott. We tried our best. We competed. But I want more."
Carrboro (15-1) finished the year ranked No. 5 in the final Associated Press rankings of North Carolina’s 2A teams — and tantalizingly close to the town’s first state football championship in the high school’s sixth year of varsity competition.
South Iredell won its first state championship, 30-27.
Neither team had ever been as far as the NCHSAA semifinals before this year, let alone in the championship game.
The opponents had some other similarities, too, beyond the almost comical fact that both of their respective head coaches had full, bushy beards, the products of superstitions that they shouldn’t shave as long as the team was winning.
Carrboro started football in 2007 and took its lumps early.
The Jaguars didn’t get a touchdown until game three of their first year and didn’t beat a North Carolina school until 2008.
Likewise, before Scott Miller took over as head coach at South Iredell, the Vikings won 36 games in 10 years. They’ve won 38 in the last three years, including this year’s 14-2 finish.
"This means a lot to the boys, and it means a lot to me," Miller said. "And it was a lot of fun."
Both teams showed what can be accomplished when young athletes persevere.
Maybe that’s one of the reasons Saturday night’s loss stung the Jaguars so much. They had worked so hard to come so far.
Most teams would be overjoyed with a 10-win season. But after winning 11, the Jaguars wanted 12, then 13, 14, 15.
As Mellott said, they wanted more.
They almost had it.
Carrboro led 27-23 with 2:37 left in the see-saw game after quarterback Alex McVeigh guided a masterful, 80-yard drive for the go-ahead score. On a second-and-nine at the Vikings’ 12-yard line, McVeigh scrambled to his right, left, right and finally back to his left to get into the end zone standing up.
Carrboro coach Jason Tudryn met McVeigh and wide receiver Marlin Johnson on the sideline and said "We’re going to win this thing."
It was one of the few times all year he would be proved wrong.
Getting he ball back with 2:37 left to play may have been the single biggest factor in South redell’s favor. Blessed with linebacker-turned-back Lachaston Smith, the Vikings were able to eat up yardage and all but the last 19 seconds of the game as they scored the game-winning touchdown.
“Our kids came within two minutes of a state championship,” Tudryn said. “The ball could have bounced any number of different ways. Our kids played with courage. They played with a lion’s heart.”