Arden – Christ School in Arden won its first-ever state football title, blasting Harrells Christian 55-21 at home in NCISAA Division II play among private schools.
Christ School Greenies (6-2) were the top seed, and previously-unbeaten Harrells Crusaders (8-1) were the second seed. Their title showdown was Friday, Nov. 22, a week ahead of Thanksgiving. The championship made the holiday much sweeter for Greenies families in this pandemic-restricted year.
Christ School (CS) reached state finals in football in five of the latest six seasons and ten times overall — in 1976-78, 1986, 2012, 2015-16 and ’18-20. The tenth time was the charm for the 120-year-old, all-boys school, as the Gerenies earned the state trophy. Harrells, which won a state title in 2008, is about 40 miles outside Wilmington near the coast.
Star senior Cade Mintz scored three of the eight Greenies touchdowns. Mintz opened scoring when he took a pass from A.J. Simpkins, and stiff-armed a foe as he raced down the right side for a 31-yard TD. That came with 4:59 left in the first quarter.
Bryce Sain ran eight yards for the next score after he ran to the right, cut suddenly, then charged up the middle. This was in the second quarter.
Simpkins threw a bomb to Mintz for a 50-yard TD after rolling left to elude the pass rush. That provided a 21-0 lead. CS led 28-14 at halftime.
The CS offense scored on all four of its second-half posses CS from Swain, and Mintz from Cherokee.
Second-half highlights included when sophomore Tray Mauney took a screen from junior Simpkins, then hit Arden native Zack Myers for another TD bomb. Mauney is the backup QB. Myers, a freshman who matched Mintz with a pair of TD receptions, covered 41 then 80 yards on his scores. The fifth aerial TD went to Dartmouth recruit Painter Richards-Baker, on an 83-yard play.
The defense contained the Crusaders’ star 240-pound runner Devin Gardner. He scored six TDs a week earlier. Special teams did its part, too. Senior Wilson Handy recovered a fumble, and Charlie Bednar blocked a kick.
“We stuck to our plan,” Greenies head coach Nick Luhm said of his strategy, in a post-win interview with WLOS-TV 13 Sports Director Chris Womack. “We stuck to the mission,” and clicked in practice all week ahead of the big game.
A small crowd was permitted to cheer on the Greenies, at Fayssoux Field. Two fans per player are allowed, by NCISAA spectator rules. The title game was on the final day of in-person learning at Christ School until January.
Greenies Won Six in Row, Earned Honors
The Greenies shut out Fayetteville Trinity Christian 38-0 in round one, a semifinal contest at home. Freshmen Myers and Cayden Jones each caught passes for TDs. Sain ran for a score. Mickey Meguiar scored a safety. The vocal leader was extra-hyped in the pre-game huddle. Brady Iaonnidis pounced n a fumble. Myers and Christian Hudson each made an interception.
All-state NCISAA honors went to wide receiver Mintz and junior OL Eli Brasher ‘22 on the first team; second-team selections of RB Sain, senior TE Charlie Browder ’21, DL Ioannidis; with DB Cayden Jones an honorable mention. Ioannidis (72) and fellow junior Angeni Jacobs (70) led CS in total tackles in ’20. Ioannidis made five sacks, and Jacobs and Meguiar three each. Meguiar, Hudson, Myers and junior Jake Regan each picked off a pass.
QB Simpkins was a finalist for the Charlotte Observer’s High School Heisman award, that was won by Division 1 champ Charlotte Christian senior RB Henry Rutledge.
Simpkins threw for 1,888 yards (236 ypg), 19 TDs and seven picks. Sain and Mintz combined for 923 rushing yards. Mintz led CS with 659 receiving yards (82 ypg), and had 1,010 total yards.
The veteran CS squad has 14 seniors, among 39 listed on varsity on the school website. Na Brown is offensive coordinator. Varsity assistants are Heath Shuler, Antonio Britto (also JV head coach), Jamie Auch, Duncan Barnes, Matt Perse, George Revercomb, Jeremy Jacobs and Jack Fader.
Eric Thorp is the CS athletic director. Headmaster Paul Krieger is retiring at the end of 2020-21.
The season is historic for the state title, and also in “The Game” by defeating local arch-rival Asheville School 63-7 to set marks for most points scored and largest margin of victory in the nearly century-long series. That rivalry game on Halloween concluded the regular season.
The victory followed CS triumphs at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee in a rematch then over Metrolina Christian Academy, to win six in a row. The first two CS games were losses — to eventual Div. I finalist Rabun Gap (7-2) then Oct. 9 at Abbeville (SC) in a game that subbed for the sole postponement on the CS schedule. High Point Christian back out, due to COVID-19 concerns.
Abbeville (10-0) won a public school state title last Friday. South Carolina public schools played, unlike North Carolina public high schools.
Dec. 16-18 is the football national early signing period for college-bound high seniors.