NEW LONDON — Déjà vu was in the air Friday night.
One week removed from a 30-point win at South Stanly, the North Stanly Comets (7-5) defeated the Rebel Bulls (5-7) by 30 once again, this time in a 1AA East Region home playoff matchup.
The seventh-seeded Comets knocked off the 10th-seeded Bulls, 50-20, ending South Stanly’s campaign and progressing to a second round contest with No. 2 John A. Holmes (10-0, 5-0) in Edenton on Friday.
For South, postseason play started out with a sense of promise.
Dual-threat quarterback Jaquez Cooke broke multiple tackles and took off for a 65-yard touchdown run on the first offensive play of the game. The senior finished the night with 222 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns but also three costly interceptions.
North running back Christian Barber responded two minutes later with a 70-yard run to the end zone. Both teams were held in a defensive stalemate for most of the first half until Barber scored again with only 25 seconds left in the second quarter.
The junior rushing threat had a total of four touchdowns to go along with 220 yards on the ground. His second score proved to be the most impactful, shifting the momentum that carried strongly into the third quarter.
“It was night and day from the first half,” North Stanly head coach Scott Crisco said. “We took care of business in the locker room at halftime. Credit to South Stanly; they played a heck of a first half. But our boys showed up in the second half and did what we asked them do to.”
The surging Comets put up 36 points in the final 24 minutes, ensuring their seventh straight winning season — a new school record.
“I’m tickled to death with the second half,” said Crisco. “We told our offensive line to start taking pride so that’s what they did, and then the running backs did their thing.”
The Comets passing attack came alive too, as sophomore quarterback Luke Shaver connected with wide receiver Joseph Benfield for a 52-yard strike 14 seconds into the third quarter.
Three minutes later, Barber took advantage of a short punt by South and took a 15-yard rush to the house, putting the Comets up 22 points following the extra point.
Another powerful asset for North was sophomore Karee Dykes, who recorded a pair of rushing touchdowns of his own to build the Comets lead to 31 points.
Cooke exploded for a 60-yard scoring dash late in the game, but the damage had already been done. On the following drive, Barber notched his fourth touchdown to close out the night in style.
Much like last week’s bout between these two squads, the matchup was won at the line of scrimmage.
North’s pass rush perpetually caused problems for South’s offensive line, causing Cooke to run for safety without the necessary time to find open receivers. Likewise, the Comets offensive line was able to create myriad gaps for the successful running back tandem of Barber and Dykes.
The contest was only the second time in history that two Stanly teams have been paired up in a state playoff setting.
Albemarle advances, West Stanly knocked out
Albemarle got more than 200 of its 400 rushing yards from Julius Smith as the 11th-seeded Bulldogs upset No. 5 Hayesville to advance to the second round of the 1A playoffs. Albemarle (5-7) will travel to Mooresboro for a second round matchup with third-seeded Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy (10-1), which had a bye in the first round, this Friday at 7:30 p.m.
West Stanly opened its season with eight wins but closed out the regular season with two losses and dropped a third straight with a first round loss to Charles D. Owen, 27-7, in the 2A playoffs. The eighth-seeded Colts (8-3) were kept off the scoreboard until the fourth quarter on their home field by the Warhorses (7-4).