RALEIGH - South Iredell’s strategy to win its first North Carolina high school, football championship was clear to anyone who could see a game film.
Lachaston Smith proved to be a strategy all by himself.
"They weren’t complicated," Carrboro head coach Jason Tudryn said. "They handed it to him left. They handed it to him right. Sometimes we caught him, but he’s a bull."
South Iredell rode Smith’s 152 yards rushing and three touchdowns to its first N.C. High School Athletic Association 2AA football championship with a 30-27 victory Saturday night over previously undefeated Carrboro.
Smith scored the game-winning touchdown with 19 seconds left in the game, pounding his way into Carter-Finley Stadium’s end zone from the 1-yard line.
“They stood me up the first two times,” Smith said. “I knew I had to get my weight into it.”
To no one’s surprise, Smith was named MVP of the game.
Defensive back Michael Fisher was South Iredell’s defensive MVP after he picked off three Carrboro passes, including Alex McVeigh’s 50-yard heave to the Viking 5-yard line with 5 seconds left to play.
A 6-0, 225-pound linebacker-tailback who committed last spring to play next year at the University of Virginia, Smith broke a shin in the first game of the season but then came back to help South Iredell (14-2) make its best playoff run ever.
"He showed up tonight," South Iredell quarterback Davin King said. "Whenever they would knock him down hard, he got right back up."
Eytham Kramm scored South Iredell’s other touchdown on a 7-yard run for a 16-13 lead in the second quarter.
Kicker Spenser Kingsley provided the Vikings first lead, at 10-7, with a 20-yard field goal.
Neither South Iredell nor Carrboro (15-1) had ever played in a state semifinal, let alone in a NCHSAA championship game.
"This means the world to me," Smith said. "It was tough. But anything worth doing ain’t easy."
Smith had rushed for just 498 yards prior to Saturday’s game. By comparison, Carrboro’s top rusher, Trai Sharp, had 2,159 before Saturday – 143.9 yards per game.
The Vikings keyed on Sharp, holding him to 20 yards in the second half, 62 total despite scoring two touchdowns. Sharp’s first touchdown, on a 1-yard run, was set up by Malik Carrington’s interception and 13-yard return to the South Iredell 12-yardline.
McVeigh ended up as the leading Jaguar rusher with 101 yards and two touchdowns. His first score – on a 5-yard run – came just three plays and 59 seconds into the game, set up by his 56-yard strike to Marlin Johnson on the game’s first play.
McVeigh completed 8-of-20 passes for 172 yards. But his two first-half interceptions proved costly. South Iredell scored after each pickoff.
By halftime, Smith had 111 yards and one touchdown on 15 carries to help South Iredell lead 16-13 at the break. He seemed to get stronger as the game went on, pounding his way over Carrboro’s defenders on crucial third-down plays to keep the ball in the Vikings hands most of the fourth quarter.
The Jaguars took a 20-16 lead with 5:27 left in the third quarter on a 2-yard run off tackle by Sharp. McVeigh used passes of 15 yards to Marlin Johnson and 32 yards to Sharp to convert third downs on the 11-play, 66-yard scoring drive.
South Iredell went ahead 23-20 with 11:02 left in the game after King threw passes of 19 and 11 yards to set up a 6-yard touchdown run by Smith.
Carrboro stopped the Vikings from icing the game by holding them on downs at the Jaguars’ 20 with 5:15 left to play. McVeigh then constructed a 7-play drive too cover 80 yards, scoring himself from 12 yards out to put Carrboro on top 27-23 with 2:37 remaining.
Down by three with barely 2 minutes to go, King used passes of 17 and 19 yards to set up South Iredell at the Carrboro 1-yard line with 1:26 on the clock. Three dives by Smith into the middle provided the title-clinching touchdown and ate up all but the last 19 seconds of the clock.
“He got in by six inches, but he got in,” Tudryn said.
“Our kids could have quit when they scored. A lot of teams would have, but our kids played with a lot of heart all night long. They never quit. ... We played our best football game ever — and lost."
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