SHALLOTTE — Cleveland got just enough timely stops on defense and its offense found new heroes in a 40-33 road 3AA playoff win over West Brunswick Friday night.
Cleveland will host Greenville Conley, a 33-0 winner over Triton Friday, in the second round next week.
The Rams (11-1) held the Trojans on fourth-and-2 at the 15-yard line with 1:02 to play, stacking up quarterback Markel Jones at the line.
Jones, an N.C. State baseball recruit and West’s usual starter at tailback made a spot start with the Trojans’ regular starter out with a concussion, and ran for 189 yards on 22 carries and three touchdowns.
Cleveland also played without standout runner Isaac Martin, but the Rams’ offense found new heroes.
“The kids that had to step up for us tonight on offense did,” said Cleveland coach Marc Morris. “Vincent Dean was one of those guys. He played really well.”
Dean, a senior back, ran for 173 yards on 20 carries.
The Rams went ahead 34-27 on a 17-yard run by sophomore quarterback Aaron Farmer with 6:59 to play, but the Trojans (6-6) answered right back with a 55-yard scoring run from Jones to get within 34-33 with 6:43 to play. But a unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the play forced West to try a two-point conversion from the 17-yard line. Jones got inside of the 5 on a run but was stopped there.
Cleveland went back to the play that had given it its first touchdown of the second half on the next series. Farmer gave a sharp pump fake with Alex Raines racing down the left sideline. Raines’ defender hesitated just enough for the Cleveland junior receiver to break into the open. Farmer’s pass hit Raines in stride and he raced off on a 70-yard TD reception. Raines caught a similar 23-yard TD pass in the third quarter.
“It’s just a play we run where we pump and run,” Farmer said. “Usually when we run it, it pops wide open.”
The pass gave Cleveland a 40-33 lead with 4:04 to play.
Farmer finished with three TD passes (the first one to Donqua Williams), throwing for 216 yards and rushing for 65. Alex Swain ran for 81 yards and two TDs for Cleveland.
The Rams forced two West fumbles in the second half with Sam Allen and Holden Bohanon recovering those balls.
“The defense hit a spell where they came up with some plays when the offense stopped moving the ball,” Morris said. “Then they came up with the big fourth down stop, which was the game. It’s the playoffs, you never know how it will come out.”
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