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Sharpless leads Plymouth to state title

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
RALEIGH — Big plays from Tobias Clagon and Andre Mitchell carried Plymouth to a 15-0 record and a trip to the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A state championship game Saturday. However, it was Angelo Sharpless who carried the team to school history. His two touchdowns, two interceptions and one sweet punt pinned down a state title and a 20-13 win over North Duplin.
North Duplin (14-1) did a good job of neutralizing Plymouth’s two playmaking running backs, but could not account for the play of Sharpless as he torched the Rebels’ secondary for two first-quarter scores en route to earning game and offensive MVP for the Vikings.
Plymouth (16-0) coach Robert Cody said the play of Sharpless and quarterback Dasheen Perry was critical.
Starting on their own 48, the Vikings sailed down the field on their first possession to take a 6-0 lead and momentum.
On the first play of the game, Clagon gashed the North Duplin defense for 30 yards. Two plays later Sharpless caught a screen pass from Perry near the left sideline, juked a Rebel corner and busted into the end zone for a 23-yard score.
Sharpless was just getting warmed up.
On the ensuing kickoff North Duplin started to gain some ground behind its star running back, Akeem Cox. The Rebels then decided to go to the air. With sophomore quarterback Alan Schilling filling in for senior signal caller Doug Lloyd, who was out with a broken foot, the Rebels’ passing game suffered.
On his first pass attempt Schilling lofted a long pass from the Vikings 49-yard-line, which was snuffed out by Sharpless at the 20 and brought back to the 37.
Three plays later Cody called Sharpless’ number again. This time it was a streak route down the left sideline, which was good for 44 yards.
Sharpless finished what he started, as he beat out two defenders on a fade route to catch a well-placed Perry pass in the end zone and put Plymouth up 14-0.
Sharpless finished the game with four receptions for 88 yards, while Perry was 5-5 for 131 yards.
Though Plymouth fans might have been surprised to see the Vikings throw early, Rebels’ coach Hugh Martin wasn’t.
With Cody relying heavily on the run throughout the season, Sharpless said he was happy that his coach decided to call his number and that he wanted to make the best of his chances.
With a 14-0 lead the Vikings’ defense lived up to its end of the deal. Led by linebackers Anthony Sealy, Chuck Woods, Mitchell and Perry, who was Plymouth’s defensive MVP, the Vikings held the Rebels in check for the entire first half.
The Vikings increased their lead midway through the second quarter when Mitchell caught another Perry bomb for 43 yards, then scored on a 10-yard scamper to head into halftime up 20-0.
Plymouth celebrated as it went into the locker room, but the Rebels weren’t ready to concede.
North Duplin, led by its defensive MVP, Robert McCullen, kept the Vikings out of the end zone for the entire second half and stole the momentum in the third quarter.
The Rebels received the ball to start the second half and put together a drive on the back of their offensive MVP, Cox, who finished the game with 109 yards on 14 attempts.
North Duplin seemed poised to score, but when coach Martin put the ball in his young quarterback’s hands, he could not come through.
Schilling attempted to throw a 28-yard TD pass, but it was intercepted at the 2-yard line by Sharpless.
With their backs to the end zone, the Vikings ran three straight running plays up the gut that were quickly ended by a strong Rebels’ D.
With Sharpless, the Vikings’ punter, forced to kick out of his own end zone, North Duplin pounced on the opportunity. Brian Mello blocked the punt, which rolled around in the end zone until Schilling recovered it for a score.
The block revitalized the Rebels as they would go on to score their first offensive touchdown on their next possession.
After forcing Plymouth to punt again, Cox ripped off a 55-yard run to set up a Melo 2-yard TD score with 2:30 left in the third.
After kicker Junior Guzman nailed the extra point, the Rebels found themselves down by only 7 with plenty of momentum and time.
With a little over 10 minutes left, the Vikings clung on to their lead as their defense clamped down on the Rebels even tighter.
Despite all the big second-half hits, it might have been a punt that had the most impact. With four minutes left in the game the Vikings were forced to punt to a surging Rebels squad that was ready to make their last stand.
After the blocked punt in the third quarter, Plymouth fans held their breath every time the Vikings faced a long fourth down. There was nobody breathing as Sharpless fielded the snap from the 50-yard line. But like he had done all game, Sharpless came through in the clutch and nailed a 49-yard punt to pin down the Rebels at their own 1-yard line.
Forced to pass, North Duplin couldn’t get it done as Plymouth once again picked off Schilling and picked up its first state title in school history.
North Duplin 0 0 13 0 — 13
Plymouth 14 6 0 0 — 20
Plymouth North Duplin
20 First downs 13
51-67 att/rush yards 26-150
131 pass yards 17
5-5 att/comp/int 2-9-3
0 fumbles/lost 1
5-27.4 punts 4-33.2
10-76 penalties 9-93
Scoring summary
P - Angelo Sharpless 23 from Dasheen Perry (two points failed), 10:02, 1st.
P - Sharpless 25 pass from Perry (Tobias Clagon two points), 4:36, 1st.
P - Andre Mitchell 10 run (two points failed), 6:27, 2nd.
N - Alan Schilling blocked punt (kick failed), 8:00, 3rd.
N - Billy Mello 2 run (Junior Guzman kick good), 2:20, 3rd.