Chapel Hill and Raleigh – All the recaps, stats, press conference videos, and pictures from the 2023 NCHSAA Football Championships.
Mount Airy Wins Back-to-back State Championships
CHAPEL HILL — The stage was set for a showdown in the 1A State Championship match as the Tarboro Vikings and Mount Airy Granite Bears clashed in the state finals in 2017 and 2022, each having claimed a victory over the other in previous championship matches. On Saturday, Mount Airy walked away with its ninth NCHSAA Football State Championship with a 21-3 win at Kenan Memorial Stadium on the University of North Carolina campus.
In a defensive stalemate, a highlight from the first quarter came from an impressive punt from Tarboro’s Oscar Perez Gaspar, who launched a 55-yarder landing just shy of the 5-yard line.
Gaspar also provided the first points of the game in the second quarter, finishing a seven-play, 17-yard drive with a 39-yard field goal. In the final minute of the half, Tarboro’s defense made a goal-line stand and the Granite Bears missed a 21-yard field goal attempt, securing a 3-0 Tarboro lead at the break.
In the third quarter, Deric Dandy was credited with a crucial tackle as he went for it on fourth and one. The turnover on downs gave Mount Airy the ball on the Tarboro 29-yard line. Capitalizing on the field position, Tyler Mason gave the game its first touchdown with a 12-yard run after five plays, propelling the Granite Bears to a 7-3 lead.
On the Granite Bears next drive, Ian Gallimore executed a quick shovel pass to Mario Revels for an 89-yard touchdown in the first 15 seconds of the fourth quarter. The momentum continued for the Granite Bears as Gallimore, in a patient 9-play, 32-yard drive, connected a pass to Blake Hawks in the endzone, sealing the championship title for Mount Airy and a 21-3 lead.
Tarboro finished the season with a 13-1 record. This is Tarboro’s 14th appearance in the state finals since their first in 1984, and their 7th consecutive appearance, having had the chance at a state title every year since 2017. The Vikings’ state finals record is 8-6, and they were state runner-ups in 2022 and now 2023.
Mount Airy finished the season with a 16-0 record. This is Mount Airy’s 14th championship appearance in the final game of the season, having a 9-5 record in their championship appearances since their first in 1935.
The NCHSAA is committed to promoting good sportsmanship and has partnered with the NC Farm Bureau to recognize two athletes from each State Championship event with the NC Farm Bureau Sportsmanship Awards. The Sportsmanship Award winners for the 2023 1A Football State Championship Match were Dee Dawkins from Mount Airy and Shermardra Clark from Tarboro.
The NCHSAA is proud to partner with Wells Fargo to present the Most Valued Player award in the 1A State Championship match to Tyler Mason from Mount Airy. Mason had a stellar performance with 133 rushing yards and a touchdown.
In tandem with the Carolina Panthers, the NCHSAA is proud to present Offensive and Defensive Most Valued Player awards to two players from each team. From Mount Airy, Mario Revels won Offensive MVP, and Ian Gallimore won Defensive MVP. Revels had an average of 8.7 rushing yards per play and 100 receiving yards, while Gallimore finished the game with 104 passing yards, six tackles, and two touchdowns. From Tarboro, Kamerin Mcdowell-Moore won Offensive MVP, and Isaiah Jones won Defensive MVP. McDowell-Moore finished the game with 31 rushing and 11 receiving yards accompanied by 8.5 tackles, while Jones finished the game with 6.5 tackles.
— Allison Schuldt
Reidsville Outlasts Clinton for 10th Title Since 1972
RALEIGH — Hungry for redemption after their loss in the 2022 championship game, the Reidsville Rams overcame the undefeated Clinton Dark Horses in a resounding 28-18 victory. Reidsville walked away with its 10th NCHSAA Football State Championship since 1972 at Carter-Finley Stadium on the campus of North Carolina State University on Saturday afternoon.
In their first possession of the game, the Rams started strong with a pass from Al Lee to Dionte Neil to take the lead 7-0 after an 8-play, 65-yard drive. Undeterred, Clinton’s Josiah Robinson rushed 60 yards on the team’s first play after the touchdown, but the drive ended in a 26-yard field goal from Brandt Sumner.
The Rams were able to cap off a five-play, 62-yard drive with an 18-yard pass from Lee to Kendre Harrison to up their lead 14-3 heading into the second quarter.
Harnessing their pass defense, the Dark Horses were able to halt the Ram’s momentum for the entirety of the second quarter. Jeffrey Arnette had a crucial pass disruption on 4th & 7 in the last moments of the first half.
Clinton’s Ameris Williams capped a steady 7-play, 53-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. Four minutes later, Reidsville’s Harrison received a 24-yard pass from Lee to end the third quarter with a 21-10 lead for the Rams. MVP Al Lee ended the night with 258 yards passing and four touchdowns.
Reidsville opened the fourth quarter with another score to propel the Rams to a 28-10 lead. Lee hurled a 45-yard pass to Cam’ron Jones in the end zone. Working quickly, Clinton was able to respond with a 17-yard pass from Nydarion Blackwell to Williams. Williams added a 2-point conversion but the Rams were able to hold their 28-18 lead until the clock hit zero.
Reidsville finished the season with a 15-1 record. This was Reidsville’s 30th appearance in the final game of the season since their first in 1930. The Ram’s are 23-7-2 in those games and they were state runners-up in 2022.
Clinton finished the season with a 15-1 record. This was Clinton’s 11th appearance in the state finals, having a 5-6 record in their championship appearances ever since their first in 1976. Their most recent appearance was as runner-up in 2014.
The NCHSAA is committed to promoting good sportsmanship and has partnered with the NC Farm Bureau to recognize two athletes from each State Championship event with the NC Farm Bureau Sportsmanship Awards. The Sportsmanship Award winners for the 2023 2A Football State Championship Match were Grayson Robinson from Reidsville and Javion Kenan from Clinton.
In tandem with the Carolina Panthers, the NCHSAA is proud to present Offensive and Defensive Most Valued Player awards to two players from each team. From Reidsville, Kendre Harrison won Offensive MVP, and Paul Widerman won Defensive MVP. Harrison had 95 receiving yards along with six total tackles, while Widerman finished the game with six tackles and a TFL (1-17 yards). From Clinton, Josiah Robinson won Offensive MVP, and Jayden Williams won Defensive MVP. Robinson finished the game with 110 rushing yards, while Williams finished the game with 12 tackles.
— Allison Schuldt
Hickory Wins First State Championship Since 1996
CHAPEL HILL — Both the Hickory Red Tornadoes and Seventy-First Falcons came into the 3A State Championship match on Friday night with an undefeated season on the line. Hickory walked away with its first NCHSAA Football State Championship since 1996 with a 33-26 win at Kenan Memorial Stadium on the University of North Carolina campus.
Hickory opened the scoring 5:14 into the game, to take the lead after a 15-play, 74-yard drive culminating in a 2-yard rushing touchdown from Isaiah Lackey. Seventy-First answered accordingly, responding with a 12-play, 72-yard drive capped off by a 13-yard touchdown pass from Deandre Nance to Amire Drummond, just 1:43 before the end of the first quarter.
After trading another pair of touchdowns in the second quarter, Hickory was able to secure a 5-point lead at the break with a 26-yard field goal from Braeden McCourt as time expired.
Coming out of the half, Seventy-First played with fire to complete the longest play so far in the game. In a swift five-play, 88-yard drive, Deandre Nance tore through Hickory’s defense for 38 yards, putting Seventy-First ahead on the scoreboard 19-18.
The fourth quarter brought another burst of adrenaline as Hickory surged forward. In a 10-play, 76-yard drive, Lackey bulldozed his way to a 12-yard rush touchdown, followed by a successful 2-point conversion pass from Damarion Lee, propelling Hickory in front 26-19 lead.
The Falcons answered and tied the game with just 2:42 remaining with a 6-yard touchdown pass caught by Jaydyn Surgeon.
In the final moments of the game, with just 36 seconds on the clock, Hickory clinched the championship as MVP Brady Stober capped a 62-yard game-winning drive with an eight-yard touchdown run. Stober finished the night 21 of 30 for 238 yards through the air and 46 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
The Falcons threatened in the dying moments of the game, but Hickory’s Will Prince came up with an interception in the end zone as time expired.
Hickory finished the season with a 16-0 record. This is Hickory’s second appearance in the state finals, the first since its 1996 title. Seventy-First finished the season with a 15-1 record. This was Seventy-First’s fourth championship appearance in the tying in 1984, winning the championship in 1986 and 2008, and now runner-up in 2023.
The NCHSAA is committed to promoting good sportsmanship and has partnered with the NC Farm Bureau to recognize two athletes from each State Championship event with the NC Farm Bureau Sportsmanship Awards. The Sportsmanship Award winners for the 2023 3A Football State Championship Match were Henry Pitts from Hickory and Melik Thomas from Seventy-First.
In tandem with the Carolina Panthers, the NCHSAA is proud to present Offensive and Defensive Most Valued Player awards to two players from each team. From Seventy-First, Deandre Nance won Offensive MVP, and Zayvion Hill won Defensive MVP. Nance scored two touchdowns with 159 rushing and 90 passing yards, his longest throw being 45 yards, while Hill finished the game with 8.5 tackles. From Hickory, Isaiah Lackey won Offensive MVP, and Henry Pitts won Defensive MVP. Lackey scored three touchdowns with 113 rushing yards, while Pitts finished the game with seven tackles.
— Allison Schuldt
Weddington Races Past Hoggard for the 4A Crown
RALEIGH – The Weddington Warriors dominated in a 56-21 win over the Hoggard Vikings to win their fourth NCHSAA Football State Championship and first as a 4A school at Carter-Finley Stadium on the North Carolina State University campus on Saturday.
Weddington faced an early setback when Hoggard’s Trey Nixon intercepted a pass at the 41-yard line and Hudson Wilharm connected on a 4-yard pass to Charlie Kilbourne in the end zone a few plays later to give the East Champs a 7-0 lead. But that was the only setback of the night for the Warriors as they rattled off 42 unanswered points on the way to the title.
In the second quarter, Weddington put together a 12-play, 92-yard drive, capped off with a Nick Diamond 12-yard touchdown run. The Tyler Budge-Keenan Jackson duo struck for the second time with 45 seconds left in the half as Budge launched a 21-yard pass to Jackson in the deep corner of the end zone, giving Weddington a 28-7 lead heading into halftime.
In the first minute of the third quarter, Weddington’s Aiden Harris leaped over three of Hoggard’s blockers to block a punt, setting the stage for a scoop-and-score touchdown by TJ Davis. After recovering a fumble from Hoggard on the ensuing possession, Weddington propelled to a 42-7 lead after Diamond rushed for a 47-yard touchdown.
Hoggard countered with a smart play-action-run from Wilharm to break the scoring drought but still trailed 42-14.
Brady Ritter zoomed past Hoggard’s defense for an 11-yard rushing touchdown to increase their lead to 49-14 and just three minutes later, Jackson raced downfield so quickly that he left his shoe behind, sprinting 22 yards to set Budge up for a 1-yard touchdown run. Jackson’s stellar performance, amassing 136 receiving yards and three total touchdowns, earned him the title of Most Valued Player in the game.
Weddington finished the season with a 14-2 record. This was Weddington’s 5th appearance in the state finals, being runner-up in 2014, and winning the championship in 2016, 2018, 2019, and 2023.
Hoggard finished the season with a 14-2 record. This was Hoggard’s second appearance in the state finals, winning the championship in 2007.
The NCHSAA is committed to promoting good sportsmanship and has partnered with the NC Farm Bureau to recognize two athletes from each State Championship event with the NC Farm Bureau Sportsmanship Awards. The Sportsmanship Award winners for the 2023 4A Football State Championship Match were Graham Mills from Weddington and Charlie Kilbourne from Hoggard.
In tandem with the Carolina Panthers, the NCHSAA is proud to present Offensive and Defensive Most Valued Player awards to two players from each team. From Weddington, Tyler Budge won Offensive MVP, and Aiden Harris won Defensive MVP. Budge had 243 passing yards along with three touchdowns, while Harris finished the game with four tackles, one interception, and a TFL (2-10 yards). From Hoggard, Wilharm won Offensive MVP, and Kamar Fulton won Defensive MVP. Wilharm finished the game with 195 passing yards, 59 rushing yards, and all three of Hoggard’s touchdowns, while Fulton finished the game with 13 tackles.
— Allison Schuldt