WILSON — -- Cleveland’s run in the state playoffs ended one round earlier than last season, but the Rams put a huge scare into Wilson Hunt Friday night.
It wasn’t until Donqua Williams’ halfback pass from 15 yards out failed to connect at the final horn that the unbeaten Warriors knew they were headed to the Eastern 3AA final with a 33-28 victory.
Hunt (13-0) will travel to No. 1 seed Northern Guilford (13-0) next week for a rematch of the Eastern championship game the Warriors lost 29-13 at home last season. Cleveland finished its season 12-2 after going 11-4 and falling in the Eastern 3A final last season.
Junior Isaac Martin carried 25 times for 202 yards and two touchdowns for the Rams. Sophomore Aaron Farmer completed 24 of 39 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns. Those were both to junior Williams, who had 12 catches for 147 yards.
“Our kids did a great job competing and playing hard,” Ram coach Marc Morris said. “But give a lot of credit to Wilson Hunt. They’ve got a great football team. They’re talented and well-coached. We got it down to the last play and couldn’t get it done. But I’m very proud of our kids.”
Josh Joyner carried 31 times for 111 yards and three touchdowns for Hunt.
Hunt coach Randy Raper said his heart was in his throat for the final Cleveland drive, which began at the Rams’ 20 when Brian Orellana missed a 28-yard field-goal attempt with 1:55 to go.
“It’s still there,” Raper said with a laugh several minutes after the game.
The field goal attempt had come following a fumble by the Rams, who had fumbled deep in Warrior territory on their previous drive.
The Warriors led 24-14 at halftime on Orellana’s 33-yard field goal at the buzzer. That kick was set up as Justin Jefferson intercepted a Farmer pass and returned it 79 yards to the Rams’ 16.
Cleveland got on the board first on just its second play from scrimmage, as Farmer hit Williams on a 24-yard pass two plays after the Rams returned the opening kickoff to the Hunt 34. Sam Frampton added the kick.
But Hunt scored on its next three possessions, the touchdowns all by Joyner.
He scored from six yards out to finish a 12-play, 61-yard drive with 5:34 left in the quarter, then from a yard out to end a seven-play, 74-yard march at 4:20.
And it went to 21-7 on Joyner’s three-yard run at 2:07.
Cleveland cut the margin to one touchdown with 3:45 left in the half as Martin went in from a yard out with Frampton adding the kick.
The Rams struck first in the second half, as Farmer found Williams for a 45-yard strike down the right sideline. Frampton’s kick made it 24-21 with 4:09 left in the third.
Hunt got a 29-yard field goal from Orellana with 1:25 left in the third.
But Martin burst up the middle for a 66-yard score on the final play of the third, with Frampton’s kick making it 28-27.
The Warriors took the lead back at 33-28, when Westbrook hit Kentrell Brown for a 13-yard scoring pass. But Westbrook’s conversion pass was incomplete, leaving the door open for the Rams to get a shot at a clean winning touchdown.