North Stanly eclipses West Stanly in closing minute of intracounty thriller

NEW LONDON — Facing a 3rd-and-10 with 70 yards to go and just 40 seconds left in the game, North Stanly was quickly running out of time in Friday night’s home matchup with West Stanly.

The Colts (3-1) had just taken the air out of R.N. Jeffery Stadium as running back Sawyer Gibbs put his team up 21-17 with 1:02 on the clock thanks to a 20-yard touchdown run. 

It turns out that the Comets (2-2) had a late-game response of their own as Cameron Smith snagged a 12-yard pass from quarterback Chance Blake and evaded multiple Colts as he took the game-winning catch all the way to the end zone — all but locking up a 24-21 Stanly Cup victory for North.

Following the Comets’ successful extra-point kick, West was fruitless in its last-ditch effort to score again.

“Ever since 2019, we’ve had this game scheduled and circled. Tonight, my team proved it — they came to play,” North coach Scott Crisco said, referencing his team’s 42-0 loss to West three years ago. “In the past, we’ve dropped our heads. Tonight, I told my guys to be a man and take it to them.”

Crisco added that this victory was just what his team needed after a 1-2 start to the season, heralding the effort of Smith — who finished with two touchdowns — and his ability to fire up the whole offensive unit. 

North entered the game on the heels of a 49-0 road loss to North Rowan (3-1).

“Our offense has struggled the first three games but they came into their own tonight. The line did a great job blocking and Cam is an exceptional runner. He saw the holes and he has the mentality that he’s not going down with the first tackle….This win jump-started our season. Now, we’re ahead of where we were last year.”

While the Comets ultimately came out on top, it was the Colts who controlled the momentum of the contest early on. West put the first points of the night on the board at the 7:37 mark of the first quarter as running back Matthew Parker converted a 12-yard touchdown rush.

Both teams engaged in a series of punts, penalties and misfires until Comet wideout Junior Hill reeled in a 48-yard pass from Blake as the first-quarter clock ran out; Smith then used an eight-yard run on the following play to make it a 7-7 game after the extra point.

West’s special teams unit proved itself to be a factor midway through the second quarter as it returned a blocked punt for a go-ahead score. Then with 1:59 left in the half, North kicker Kaden Young threaded the needle on a 35-yard field goal kick to cut West’s lead to 10-7 heading into the break. 

The Comets struck first in the second half as wide receiver B.A. Harris hauled in a 28-yard touchdown reception on North’s first drive of the third quarter. The team would hold onto a 17-14 lead for the rest of the quarter and the majority of the fourth quarter until the Colts seemingly scored the game-winning touchdown with a minute to go, but the Comets had other plans.

Next up, North will face its final non-conference opponent in Randleman (3-1) as the Comets hit the road on Friday; West will look to bounce back to the win column as it travels to Oak Grove (4-0) that same night.