Kannapolis – T.C. Roberson Rams rammed Kannapolis A.L. Brown out of the playoffs with an exciting 36-29 comeback road win Friday, A.C. Reynolds also won, but Asheville was eliminated in its playoff opener.
Thirteen is Roberson’s lucky number, in halting a playoff victory drought going back 13 seasons — to 2007.
The road win earns the 7-1 Rams a 3AA second-round game against Greensboro Dudley Panthers, in Skyland Friday. “It’s nice to be at home, instead of on a two-and-a-half-hour bus ride,” Ram head coach Jason Dinwiddie said. “Our community is excited.”
Reynolds won 14-7 over West Rowan at home, in 3A. Carter Lindsay covered 62 yards up the middle to score on a pass from freshman quarterback Ricky Tolbert, to tie it in the second quarter. In the fourth, star Rocket LB Marc Golden snatched away the ball and ran to the Falcon 25. Soon after, Lindsay ran seven yards to the left side on a wildcat snap and broke four tackles to score – putting ACR ahead to stay with four minutes to go.
“We were in crunch time — tied in a big playoff game,” Lindsay said. “We made a couple of key plays, to win and keep going.” Coach Shane Laws’ Rockets (7-1) welcome Charlotte Catholic (6-1) Friday.
Asheville (5-3) fell 42-0 at top-ranked Weddington (7-0), in 3AA play.
Reaching ‘Paydirt,’ Getting ‘Payback’
Vengeance fueled extra motivation for TCR. Last season, its season ended in a heartbreaking home defeat to the Wonders — in a wild 56-50 shootout. The Wonders scored twice in the final three and a half minutes. In between, they poked the ball away on a long Ram reception.
In the rematch, Brown (6-2) again popped the ball loose from Ram receivers in the first half. “They made hard hits, forcing fumbles” on receptions,” Roberson QB Brody Whitson said. He noted the Wonders trash-talked starting before the game. “They were yelling across the field, trying to get into our heads and intimidate us.” That backfired.
“We’re much better than we were last year,” Coach Dinwiddie said of the difference in outcomes. “We started a little slow” this time. “But once we got going, we played well.”
Instead of both teams scoring at will, this time the Rams made some key stops. “This is the best our D-line played the whole year,” Whitson said. “Everybody got their number called” by the announcer, for making tackles.
Whitson Out-wits Wonders
TCR had to rally to win. Brown scored the first two touchdowns and led 22-15 at halftime.
Roberson tied it in the third quarter, as Whitson ran 14 yards into the end zone. At halftime “our coaches asked what we liked to do most,” Whitson said. “I said, ‘Just have our wide receivers run their usual routes. If it’s (pass) not there, I’ll tuck it and get as many yards as I can.’” Whitson noted, “I felt like I had to take it into my own hands, after all of the turnovers we had in the first half.”
In that way, he emulates his idol — fellow lefty Tim Tebow, the former Florida Gator bruising QB. “I love the way he carried everybody on his back,” Whitson said.
On the scoring play, Lefty Whitson rolled to his left side —is where it is easier to throw on the run. The Wonders had adjusted to try to limit his lateral running. “They tried to cut me off on that (left) side. So, I cut it to the other side. Our receivers blocked well” on the perimeter. “I was gone.”
Whitson said he felt the tide turn in TCR’s favor, with that score. “The way our O-line and receivers were blocking, we knew we belonged in this game.”
McDay All Day
The Rams then outscored Brown two TDs to one in the final quarter. Both of those scores were on pass plays from Whitson to Rodney McDay, covering 30 then 35 yards. The scores were in a five-minute span. The go-ahead TD was with 7:18 to play. The last McDay TD was with 2:38 left and was crucial, as Brown matched it with 1:46 to go on a 31-yard TD pass.
More than half — 14 of 25 — of Whitson’s 25 completions were to McDay, who totaled 147 yards. He caught 16 passes for nearly 200 yards against Brown, in the prior season.
“Rodney is better than most defenders,” Whitson said. “He told me they weren’t double-teaming him.” Instead, Brown stuck with man-to-man coverage common in playoffs.
Kam White caught a five-yard Ram TD pass, to tie the game midway into the second quarter. Zharius Looper ran for 79 yards.
Three R’s: Reading, Running, Rejoicing
Whitson was his usual dual-threat self. He ran for 121 yards (6 ypc.) and two TDs. He put TCR on the board with his nine-yard scamper. He has run for 15 of TCR’s 20 rushing scores, and 795 (6.4 ypc.) of its 1,585 rushing yards.
Whitson passed for 261 yards and three TDs Friday. The offense was “cleaner” than when he threw for 445 yards and three TDs against Brown a season ago. “I played a lot better.”
Whitson has thrown for 2,138 yards (267 per game) and 27 TDs this spring, against merely five picks. He passed for 364 yards and five TDs in the win over previously unbeaten Wautaga in the regular-season finale — a superb playoff tuner.
“Nine times out of time, Brody makes the right ‘read’ and decision,” said Colton Brackett. He coaches quarterbacks and helps coordinate the offense. Brackett said Whitson helps rev up teammates, to strive for consistency and “peak performance.”
Whitson is “doing a good job of leading our team,” Coach Dinwiddie said. “It boils down to confidence. All of our kids are good job of leading our team,” Coach Dinwiddie said.
Dudley Do-Right or Wrong?
Next foe Dudley (7-1) yields merely nine points on average and is run-oriented. “They’re big and physical,” Dinwiddie said. Stocky senior back Milan Summers has rushed for 1,206 yards and 24 TDs.
Versus a common foe, Dudley (7-1) beat Watauga 28-8 a week after TCR outscored the Pioneers 47-36.
Dudley Do-Right is a dim-witted cartoon Canadian Mountie. Containing or outscoring Summer can turn the Panthers into Dudley Do-Wrong.