The team from Mount Airy demonstrated that success is not determined by how you begin, but rather by how you end.
The first half of the game was scoreless for the Bears, but they were able to find their offensive momentum in the second half.
Mount Airy earned 21 points in the second half, resulting in a 21-3 victory over Tarboro in the NCHSAA 1A championship match.
The Bears have claimed their ninth state championship, defeating the Vikings (13-1) for the second year in a row. This victory marks their 30th consecutive win.
“I am incredibly proud of our team and their determination and perseverance,” stated Mount Airy’s head coach JK Adkins. “It is simple to lead and have high energy when things are going smoothly, but these players stayed focused and rebounded in the second half.”
Mount Airy, with a record of 16-0, had been scoring an average of 46 points per game in the playoffs. However, Tarboro’s defense held them scoreless for the first 24 minutes. The Bears were finally able to score on their first possession of the third quarter.
Tyler Mason, who has committed to play for Virginia Tech, was named the MVP of the game after scoring a touchdown from a 12-yard distance. This score by Mason was achieved after the Vikings took a risk by going for it on fourth down with only one yard to go from their own 29-yard line. The Mount Airy defense successfully prevented them from making the play, and then Mason (27 carries for 133 yards) capitalized on this opportunity to score five plays later, causing Tarboro to suffer the consequences.
Mason praised the play call, giving credit to Adkins. He enjoyed the play and it resulted in a touchdown for him.
Jeff Craddock, the head coach of Tarboro, was confident in his ability to gain one yard in that particular scenario.
“I take risks occasionally,” stated Craddock. “But in that moment, I believed we could gain one yard.”
The game-changing move shifted the momentum of the competition.
During the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Bears displayed some impressive energy. Ian Gallimore threw a brief pass to Mario Revels, who then ran 89 yards and scored a touchdown. With the extra point, the score became 14-3 only 15 seconds into the quarter.
Gallimore made a four-yard throw to Blake Hawks in the last two minutes of the game, securing an extra score. Gallimore’s total passing yards were 104, and he scored two points. He was recognized as the defensive Most Valuable Player for his eight tackles as a linebacker.
The Bears and Vikings faced each other in the state championship game for the third year in a row. They each won one of the previous two matchups. Tarboro has a record of 9 wins and 6 losses in state title games. Meanwhile, Mount Airy’s record on the championship stage is now 9 wins and 5 losses.
Tarboro was in the lead with a score of 3-0 at halftime, which was surprising given the high-scoring records of both teams.
In the second half, the Vikings were able to score on their initial drive with a 49-yard field goal, kicked by senior Oscar Peres Gaspar. This came after the Tarboro defense held strong to end the first quarter.
Tarboro scored after the Bears were unable to convert on 4th down and returned the ball to the Vikings at the 39-yard line. After seven plays, Tarboro successfully scored.
In the final moments of the second quarter, Mount Airy advanced the ball towards the scoring area. However, the Vikings’ defense held strong and did not allow them to score. As the halftime buzzer sounded, Walker Stroup’s 21-yard attempt veered to the right and missed.
The Vikings acknowledged that they may have become too self-assured, but the Bears remained focused.
Gallimore stated that the most straightforward reaction would be to become frustrated. However, he believes that we have a great group of individuals with us. Although we were behind at halftime, we are accustomed to being in that position. However, being scoreless is not something we are used to, but we were confident that the staff would guide us to score. We were aware that it was only a matter of time before it happened.
The Bears’ defense limited Tarboro to just 11 yards in the second half and a total of 66 yards for the entire game.
“We wanted to assert that we are the protectors of Mount Airy,” declared Gallimore. “Throughout history, we have been the ones to discuss in terms of defense. We were aware of the skilled players in their backfield, but we were determined to rise to the challenge.”