WELCOME - North Davidson High School football coach Mark Holcomb describes his team's undefeated regular season and deep playoff run as a "dream come true."
It's a cliche, but for the former Black Knights player and Davidson County native, it rings true.
And the dream continues after top-seed North Davidson held off a tough Mount Tabor squad 20-14 in the third round of the 4-A state playoffs in a rematch of a 7-6 contest earlier in the season. The Black Knights (13-0) will play for a berth in the 4-A state title game next week when they host Porter Ridge (12-1) at Palmer Field in Welcome, in the regional championship.
"What we've done so far is special, but we don't want to stop now. We get to play at home again next week and I know our fans are excited about that. Obviously, if we get that one, we get a shot at the ultimate goal."
But the third round victory was far from easy against a Mount Tabor team that gave North its closest game of the regular season.
North Davidson struggled mightily in the second half offensively, managing just 67 yards total with its only points coming on a Spencer Landfried 22-yard field goal late in the third quarter.
But the defense stood up, holding their Central Piedmont conference rival scoreless in the second half, including stuffing the Spartans on a fourth-and-inches inside the Black Knights' 10-yard line midway through the fourth quarter.
Mount Tabor rushed to the line and quarterback Raekwon Brown took the snap and tried to push his way behind the line for the inches needed for the first down. The ball was spotted just a couple of links of the chain short of the marker, which incensed Mount Tabor coach Laymarr Marshall. The Spartans' coach believed his offense easily got the needed distance for the first down. Marshall was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct in the first half after arguing a defensive pass interference call when the ball flew well over a Black Knights' receiver deep in Mount Tabor territory.
"Its a shame to get this far, play a good football team and the officials," Marshall said. "I don't have to elaborate on that. Everybody in the stadium saw that. They're the only ones in football, players, coaches, anyone that don't have any accountability and somebody's got to do something about it. We tried hard and left it all out on the field. I'm talking about the spot, pass interferences, I'm talking about a number of calls. This is the second time we've came down here and got robbed this year."
It was over when...North Davidson's defense attacked Brown on the final drive of the game. The Spartans' defense dominated the Black Knights during the final few minutes, forcing six consecutive runs for no gain or negative yards and gave its offense the ball back with 1:23 to play with no timeouts. After a 24-yard reception by Deonte Sparks on first down, the Black Knights turned up the pressure, forcing three sacks on the final four plays of the game to seal the win and to start the celebration. North's Hunter Hoots had two sacks in the final drive, blocked a field goal earlier in the game, and recovered a muffed punt late in the fourth that helped the Black Knights melt away more time.
"Everywhere he goes, he just finds the ball," Holcomb said. "The last two games he's played, have been excellent. He wants it just as bad as the other kids on this team. It couldn't happen to a better kid. When you play hard, good things happen."
Turning point No. 1 - Mount Tabor was absolutely rolling early in the game. The Spartans forced a three-and-out on North's opening possession and easily scored on its first drive, capped off with a 2-yard touchdown run by Jared Huntley. The next time North got the ball, it was facing a third-and-9 near midfield and change-of-pace quarterback Tevin Tuttle's threw a pass deep across the middle that fluttered its way down the field. The jump ball fell incomplete, but Mount Tabor was flagged for defensive holding. The automatic first down continued the drive and two plays later Devonte Moore slipped through the defense for a 37-yard touchdown to tie the game.
Turning point No. 2 - With the game tied 7-7, North was mounting its most promising drive of the game, but appeared to be facing a third-and-10 at the Spartans' 26 after quarterback Chase Mitchell's pass sailed well over his receiver's outstretched hands. However, Tabor was flagged for pass interference, which moved the ball to the 13-yard line and one play later were penalized for a late hit after stuffing Moore for a 2-yard loss on a run. Following the personal foul, Marshall stood well outside the coaches' box in between the 25-yard lines, said something in a demonstrative fashion towards an official and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. One play later, 290-pound Shy Tuttle barreled in for a go-ahead touchdown.
Turning point No. 3 - Special teams were absolutely huge in this game for the Black Knights. With the game tied 14-14 and North Davidson pinned inside its 10-yard line, Mitchell uncorked a 58-yard punt that dramatically flipped the field. The defense forced a three-and-out, giving North the ball back near midfield with a 1:32 to play and after a couple of decent gains and an ill-advised timeout on fourth down and the clock running under 10-seconds, Landfield drilled a 48-yard field goal with room to spare that gave the Black Knights a 17-14 lead heading into half.
Mt. Tabor 07 07 00 00 14
North Davidson 07 10 03 00 20
MT TABOR - Jared Huntley 2 run (Billy Gentry kick) 9:53
NORTH - Devonte Moore 37 run (Spencer Landfried) 7:06
NORTH - Shy Tuttle 3 run (Landfried kick) 9:21
MT TABOR - Deonte Stokes 73 pass from Raekwon Brown (Gentry kick) 3:49
NORTH - Landfried 48 field goal 0:00
NORTH - Landfried 22 field goal 1:13