CHAPEL HILL — A great game between two outstanding high school football programs appropriately went overtime Saturday night at Kenan Stadium.
But it ended in heartbreak for Reidsville.
Jalen Easley lost a fumble on second down at the Wallace-Rose Hill 3-yard line, and the Rams’ 31-game winning streak ended, 35-28, in the NCHSAA Class 2-A championship game.
Senior defensive end Rarkell Simmons forced the fumble, and his younger brother, junior defensive tackle Elijah, recovered to end the game.
Wallace-Rose Hill scored on the first possession of the extra period when Desmond Newkirk crossed the goal line on fourth-and-1. It was his second touchdown of the night.
It was the fourth consecutive state championship for Wallace-Rose Hill (14-1), the first three coming in Class 1-AA before realignment. Reidsville (15-1) was seeking its second straight 2-A title and 20th state championship overall.
“You got to witness an unbelievable game because you saw two champions go head-to-head,” said Wallace-Rose Hill coach Kevin Motsinger. “How fitting that it went overtime. We’re just fortunate we came out on top.”
Wallace-Rose Hill looked unstoppable in the first quarter, scoring when Javonte Williams went 73 yards on the first play from scrimmage.
Reidsville countered with an 11-play, 78-yard drive. Quarterback Titus Jones went the final 14 yards when he broke two tackles and got to the right pylon.
The Bulldogs only needed three plays to score on their second possession, with Williams gaining 39 yards on the first two plays and Newkirk running the final yard for a touchdown.
The Rams countered with a 15-play, 62-yard drive, but Jones was pressured into an interception and Wallace-Rose Hill’s Quavion Basyden returned it 97 yards for a touchdown with 1:52 left in the quarter. Reidsville trailed 21-7 after the extra point.
Things slowed considerably in the second quarter, but after getting a fourth-down stop at their 19-yard line the Rams drove 81 yards to close to 21-14 on Jones’ 8-yard touchdown pass to Travion Canada with 16 seconds left in the half.
“It was big cutting it to one score,” Reidsville coach Jimmy Teague said. “Coming out in the third quarter and having a good drive was also big.”
Reidsville drove 79 yards on the opening possession of the second half to tie the score on Travion Canada’s 1-yard run.
“We told them you can’t look back; you have to look forward,” Teague said of the halftime message in the Rams’ locker room. “We were only down one touchdown, so we knew we had to score one more touchdown than they did in the second half. … That’s exactly what we did. In the overtime we just shot ourselves in the foot again.”
Wallace-Rose Hill went back up on Williams’ 5-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter, but the Rams drove 93 yards to tie it on Easley’s 1-yard run with 42 seconds left in the fourth quarter to set up overtime.
Easley finished with 120 yards on 26 carries.
“He had a heck of a senior year, and he’s a great young man. That’s not what we’re going to look at down the road,” Teague said of the fumble in overtime. “We’re going to remember what a great year he had and what a great senior leader he was. We all make mistakes, and that was a hard-fought mistake.”
Easley and the other 21 seniors for Reidsville played in two state championship games, winning one and losing one in overtime.
“I love them to death,” Teague said. “They’re a special group of guys. We’d like to have had a different ending, but we’ll look back on six weeks down the road and realize what a great group of guys this was. They’re going to go out and be great people in the community and people will be proud of them when they graduate.”
Motsinger was proud of his Wallace-Rose Hill Bulldogs and their opponent.
“Their kids are champions, too,” he said. “They didn’t come here to lose. They put their belt on the table and these boys put their belt on the table, winner-take-all. We just made one more play.”
Wallace-Rose Hill 21 0 0 7 7 — 35
Reidsville 7 7 7 7 0 — 28
WRH — Javonte Williams 73 run (kick failed)
Reid — Titus Jones 14 run (Zach Baber kick)
WRH — Desmond Newkirk 1 run (Williams run)
WRH — Quavion Basyden 97 interception return (Juan Vargas kick)
Reid — Travion Canada 8 pass from Jones (Baber kick)
Reid — Canada 1 run (Baber kick)
WRH — Williams 5 run (Vargas kick)
Reid — Jalen Easley 1 run (Baber kick)
WRH — Newkirk 1 run (Vargas kick)