Published: Nov 13, 2007 11:18 AM
Modified: Nov 13, 2007 11:14 PM
APEX The Middle Creek football team was unusually quiet Friday night. After the coaches addressed the postgame huddle gathered in the end zone, the players wandered among each other clasping hands and hugging. A few sniffles and sobs were the only sounds breaking the silence.
For a team that had shared a piece of the Tri-Eight Conference championship after starting 0-4, it was a disappointing end to a thrilling season as Chapel Hill beat Middle Creek 21-14 in the first round of the NCHSAA 4-A playoffs on Friday.
Theres not a lot of words, said Middle Creek linebacker Todd Ringenberg, one of 31 seniors on the team. You just build a bond with this person for four years. Youre real close to them. Theres really nothing to say.
Chapel Hill (6-6) advances to the second round for the first time since 1968, where it will face Smithfield-Selma.
At the start of the first quarter Middle Creek (6-6) was in control.
The Mustangs forced the Tigers to punt on their first three possessions, and Nate Harris scored on a 57-yard touchdown run. Harris finished with 145 yards, 119 of which came in the first half.
But Chapel Hill responded with a 30-yard touchdown pass from John Haus to Brett Yusiewicz to tie the game.
Middle Creek continued to force Chapel Hill punts, but two interceptions in Tigers territory stalled the offense and the game remained tied at halftime.
Chapel Hill played a good game, Middle Creek coach Sean Crocker said. Theyre big and theyre physical. We didnt execute as well as we wanted to in the first half. I think we gave them a lot of confidence and a lot of momentum.
After Middle Creek punted away their first possession of the second half, Chapel Hill quarterback Haus orchestrated a 75-yard drive, which was capped by an 8-yard CJ Washington touchdown run. Haus went 4 for 4 for 62 yards on the nine-play drive that gave the Tigers a 14-7 advantage.
We did a pretty good job stopping the run and thats why they started going to the passes, Ringenberg said. And the defensive scheme we ran, coaches said, If theyre gonna beat us, theyre gonna beat us in the pass and wed rather do that than have them run down our throats all night.
The Middle Creek offense continued to sputter but a blocked field goal by the defense kept the game within reach. Then with 2:05 left in the game Haus lofted a 19-yard touchdown pass to Justin Kenyon in the right corner of the end zone on a fourth-and-12 to go up two scores.
[Haus] is coming into his own, Chapel Hill coach Issac Marsh said. He is getting more comfortable now that he is understanding the system. Coming into the season he was green. He had to learn the varsity system even though he was the starting JV quarterback.
Middle Creek wasnt done yet. Senior quarterback Brett Burnette orchestrated an 85-yard drive of his own, which was capped by a 10-yard touchdown toss to senior Avonte Jones with 1:07 to go.
The onside kick failed, however, and when the final whistle blew it was the Tigers celebrating, not the Mustangs.
As the Middle Creek players slowly made their way off the field, Crocker circulated among the players, shaking hands and murmuring thank yous.
They overcame so much that there is a lot of emotions going on, Crocker said. Im just telling them I appreciate everything they did for me in my first year here and just that I love them.