Tigers fall to Bears in 1A title game
Published 3:55 pm Sunday, December 14, 2008
By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
RALEIGH — Forget granite, on Saturday the Bears had more of a steel appeal.
While they may not be from Pittsburgh, the Granite Bears from Mounty Airy harassed Emery Griggs and the rest of the Williamston offense with a hard-hitting, Steel Curtain-type performance that locked up its 37-14 win over the Tigers.
The Mount Airy D, coupled with a balanced offensive attack, allowed the No. 1 seed from the west, to finish the season a perfect 16-0 and win its first state title since 1948.
After finding itself in a 14-0 hole after the first quarter, Mount Airy dug itself out by allowing only four Tigers’ first downs over the next three quarters.
The air-tight defense forced three interceptions and recovered two fumbles, giving Bears quarterback, and the games most valuable player, Aaron Wheeler the opportunity to lead his team on a 37-0 run.
Aaron Culler, along with outside linebackers Justin Collier and Luke Wheeler, helped the Granite Bears turn back the rushing attack of the Tigers (10-6), the No. 3 seed from the east, by holding them to a mere three yards on 30 carries for the entire game.
Culler, the Bears’ defensive player of the game had eight tackles, while Wheeler led the team with 10, with five of those coming for a loss.
Collier only had two tackles, but he along with Wheeler were instrumental in holding down the outside of the field and funneling Griggs towards the middle on rush attempts.
Collier also recovered a fumble and ran it back 57 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Griggs, the Tigers’ 2,000-yard rusher, finished the game with 57-yards on 23 carries and survived some brutal hits by the Bears’ D.
The Tigers jumped out to an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter behind some solid defense of their own.
After being forced to punt from its own 15 on its first possession, Williamston’s Kenny Brown smashed Collier, the Bears’ punt returner, forcing a fumble which was recovered by Derek Everett at the Williamston 48-yard line.
Three plays later Griggs (142 passing yards,) connected with the Tigers’ offensive player of the game Kareem Bell on a long streak down the right sideline for a 53-yard touchdown pass to take a 7-0 lead.
Less than six minutes later the Tigers D was at it again, as Everett forced future East Carolina running back Michael Dobson (19-78, 2 Tds) to fumble, and recovered it at the Bears’ 17.
On the very next play, Griggs hooked up with Bell on a 17-yard touchdown strike to put Williamston up 14-0.
It would be the first time the Bears trailed in a game all season.
The Bears slowly chipped away at the Tigers’ lead and got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter when a solid defensive stand forced Mount Airy to settle for a 22-yard Tyler Hull field goal.
Lost in the shuffle was the play of the Tigers defense, which led by Williamston’s defensive player of the game DeBriant Everett (eight tackles, one sack) and twin brother DeBrian (three tackles), held strong for four quarters.
DeBrian said he was proud of the way the Tigers played not just on Saturday, but their whole season.
The Bears attacked again shortly after the Hull field goal as Wheeler connected on an18-yard pass to Culler to help set up a Dobson 16-yard rushing touchdown to cut the Tigers’ lead to 14-10.
Mount Airy’s defense set up the lead-changing drive as Stephen Hart picked off a Griggs pass at the Tigers’ own 34-yard line on Williamston’s ensuing possession.
One snap later, Wheeler ripped of a 34-yard run to put the Bears up for good at 17-14.
Wheeler’s mobility played a huge factor in the game, as he rushed for a team-high 119 yards on 12 carries.
The Bears’ QB also did a fantastic job of passing on the move, and hit on nine of his 15 pass attempts for 124 yards and one touchdown.
The score remained 17-14 all the way up until the fourth quarter, when Mount Airy was finally able to put some distance between itself and Williamston.
Cornerback Dorian Gywn picked off a Griggs’ pass and returned it 18 yards to the Tigers’ 12-yard line.
The Bears didn’t waste anytime capitalizing on the Tigers’ mistake as they scored on a handoff to Dobson, who dashed 12 yards on the ensuing play to go up 24-14.
Mount Airy cashed in on another Williamston turnover three minutes later when Gwyn recovered a Kenny Brown fumble at the Tigers’ 35, which led to a Wheeler 24-yard TD pass for to Gywn.
Collier slammed the door shut on the Tigers’ title hopes later on in the quarter when he recovered a Williamston fumble and darted 57-yards to paydirt and a 37-14 lead.
Mount Airy 0 17 0 20 - 37
Williamston 14 0 0 0 — 14
Williamston Mounty Airy
8 First Downs 16
30-3 Rushes/yards 39-227
142 Passing yards 124
8-23-3 Pass/Comp/Int 9-15-1
6-35 Punts 4-34.2
4-2 Fumbles/lost 3-2
3-20 Penalties 12-105
W - Kareem Bell 53 pass from Emery Griggs (Cody Speller kick), 9:13, 1st.
W - Bell 17 pass from Griggs (Speller kick), 3:41, 1st.
M - Tyler Hull 22 field goal, 9:38, 1st.
M - Michael Dobson 16 run (Hull kick), 5:31, 2nd.
M - Aaron Wheeler 34 run (Hull kick), 4:21, 2nd.
M - Dobson 12 run (Hull kick), 10:35, 4th.
M - Dorian Gywn 24 pass from Wheeler (Hull kick), 5:28, 4th
M - Justin Collier 57 fumble recovery (Hull kick failed), 4:22.