Shelby, Cardinal Gibbons, Tarboro, Dudley win state football championships

High-powered offenses took center stage in two of the four classifications decided this weekend

Shelby's Malaki Hamrick sacks Wallace-Rose Hill quarterback Xzavier Pearsall during Saturday's NCHSAA 2A state championship football game at Carter-Finley Stadium. (PJ Ward-Brown / North State Journal)

RALEIGH — A second round playoff loss to Hendersonville last season was a major disappointment to a Shelby High football team that has become accustomed to winning state championships.

The sting of that defeat, however, didn’t last very long.

Because the 2020 season was delayed until spring 2021 because of the COVID pandemic, the Golden Lions were able to get right back to the business of reclaiming the title they won in both 2018 and 2019.

It’s a goal they accomplished Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium.

Shelby’s Ja’Keith Hamilton outjumps Wallce-Rose Hill defender Reid Page for a touchdown during Saturday’s NCHSAA 2A state championship football game at Carter-Finley Stadium (PJ Ward-Brown / North State Journal)

Sophomore quarterback Daylin Lee passed for 313 yards and five touchdowns while Marquis Adams scored four times to lead Shelby to a 55-34 win against Wallace-Rose Hill and the 2A state crown.

“We got beat on April 23 in a crazy year. We came back in on the 26th, got in the weight room as a group and said, ‘Forget that season.’ Our eyes were on this day right here,” Golden Lions coach Mike Wilbanks said. 

“That has been a journey. This is our 25th game of 2021, so to go from April 26 right after we played a nine-game season, get right back to work, go right back into June, seven-on-sevens, hit August wide open and to make this 16-game run … I’m so happy for them.”

As tumultuous as the past year has been for Shelby, it’s been just as challenging for Wallace-Rose Hill, which was seeking its first state championship since 2017.

The Bulldogs were faced with an added obstacle this week when four of their players — senior wide receiver James Smith, senior tackle/nose guard Tylique Hall, sophomore Deashawn Taylor and freshman linebacker Irvin Brown —  tested positive for COVID-19 and weren’t able to make the trip to Raleigh. 

Despite the absences, Wallace-Rose Hill (13-3) held its own for the first two quarters. 

Wallace-Rose Hill receiver Devine West reacts after dropping a pass during Saturday’s NCHSAA 2A state championship game at Carter-Finley Stadium. (PJ Ward-Brown / North State Journal)

With star Kanye Roberts rushing for the first four of his five touchdowns, the Bulldogs matched Shelby score-for-score until the Golden Lions (15-1) punched it in with 11 seconds remaining in the half to take a 34-27 lead.

But while Shelby adjusted to Wallace-Rose Hill’s wing-T offense in the second half, the Bulldogs had no answer for their opponent’s passing attack. The Golden Lions scored three unanswered touchdowns to start the second half — two on Adams runs and one on a 42-pass from Lee to Adams — to break the game open.

Roberts, who is committed to play for Appalachian State next season, finally got back into the end zone late in the game and finished with 253 yards on the ground. Another Division I recruit, future UNC linebacker Malaki Hamrick, also had a big game with 14 tackles and a sack.

Cardinal Gibbons 14, Chambers 2

RALEIGH — The Crusaders (14-2) made history by becoming the first Raleigh team to win an NCHSAA state championship since 1970 while avenging losses in the finals in each of the past two seasons. Connor Clark connected with Maverick Shotwell for two long touchdown passes to give Cardinal Gibbons the 4A title against a Chambers team that won a state crown earlier this year.

Maverick Shotwell scores the first of his two touchdowns to help Cardinal Gibbons to the NCHSAA 4A state championship at Carter-Finley Stadium on Friday. (PJ Ward-Brown / North State Journal)

Shotwell hauled in a 34-yard scoring pass late in the first quarter to give the Crusaders an early lead just before a torrential rain storm hit Carter-Finley Stadium. The deluge turned the field into a swamp and made conditions treacherous for both teams.

Even though Cardinal Gibbons tried to play conservatively and avoid mistakes, it gave up two points when a punt snap eluded kicker Ethan Hastings. Thinking quickly, Hastings limited the damage by kicking the ball out of the end zone for a safety.

Conditions improved in the second half, and game MVP Shotwell took advantage by adjusting his route inside a Chambers defender to haul in a 74-yard touchdown pass. Donovan Shepard then helped put the game away by running for the majority of his game-high 119 yards in the fourth quarter.

Dylan Smothers rushed for 91 yards to lead the Cougars (14-2), including a 56-yard gain late in the first half. That brought the ball inside the Gibbons 10-yard line, but Chambers turned the ball over on the next play to end its best scoring chance of the night.

The Cougars won the 4AA state title this spring under its former name of Vance High School.

Tarboro 25, Mitchell County 7

CHAPEL HILL — The Vikings (14-1) won their second state championship this calendar year and fourth in the past five seasons by riding the punishing running of Tobias Joyner to victory in the NCHSAA 1A title game at Kenan Stadium on Saturday.

Joyner rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns while teammate Trevon White added 79 yards and two more scores for Tarboro, which defeated East Surry for the 2020 crown during the delayed season last spring.

Treheem Daniels recorded a game-high 14 tackles to lead a Vikings defense that shut out the Mountaineers (13-3) in the second half while Nathan Sherrod and Omarion Lewis each intercepted passes.

Mitchell quarterback Ty Turbyfill ran for 101 yards and passed for a touchdown to provide the bulk of his team’s offense.

Dudley 69, J.H. Rose 40

CHAPEL HILL — Michael Shaw ran for 191 yards and Jahmir Slade scored three rushing touchdowns to lead the Panthers from Greensboro to the 3A state championship at Kenan Stadium on Friday in the highest-scoring state final in NCHSAA history.

Dudley’s 69 points were also a state record for a single team in a neutral site state title game.

The Panthers (14-2) got off to a flying start by scoring touchdowns the first three times they touched the ball, including a 79-yard run by Shaw. 

Rose (11-5) answered back with a 13-yard pass from Will Taylor to Jayden Grimes and a 59-yard interception return by Jameer Roach to get back into contention and trailed only 27-14 with less than a minute remaining in the half. 

But Dudley scored twice in the final 43 seconds before halftime, on a 5-yard run by Mehki Wall and a 14-yard pass to Slade from R.J. Baker surrounded by a fumbled kickoff, to open up some separation and cruise to its sixth state title and first since 2016.

Klavon Brown ran for 115 yards and Will Taylor threw for 228 yards and three touchdowns for the Ramparts from Greenville, who battled back to make the state final after losing their first three games this season.