SPARTANBURG, S.C. — The result on the field wasn’t what the North Carolina Shrine Bowl squad would have preferred Saturday at Gibbs Stadium. But the week the Tarheel squad, led by retiring Garner coach Nelson Smith, experienced was one the players will never forget.
South Carolina carded a 23-19 victory before a crowd estimated at 7,000, scoring a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to rally after North Carolina took the lead.
The game, in its 76th year, helps raise funds to support Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Garner standout Tim Thorb, who helped lead the Trojans to a combined record of 29-2 the past two seasons, was disappointed with the outcome, but the impact the week had on his life far outweighed the result on the scoreboard.
“This is just a week that changed my whole perspective on how I view life and football,” Thorb said. “It reminded me of the things I need to cherish each day – my health, my loved ones, my relationship with God. It’s all about using football as a part of your life that gives you opportunities. It’s not just about what happens on a football field.”
Thorb started at tight end for North Carolina and hopes to make a college decision in the next few weeks.
“We drove the ball at times, but we just couldn’t avoid the turnovers,” Thorb said. “Then there were times we didn’t execute consistently enough.”
North Carolina took a 13-9 lead midway through the third quarter on a 45-yard run by Havelock’s Pharoh Cooper, a South Carolina commit. The five-play, 80-yard drive featured a “Wildcat”-type look with T.J. Logan of Northern Guilford (a North Carolina commit), Durham Hillside’s Khris Francis (another UNC commit) and Cooper all on the field. Francis had a 25-yard run to start the drive. Hillside’s Korrin Wiggins, another UNC recruit, played safety for North Carolina.
Francis had 33 yards rushing on four carries. Cooper ran for 104 yards and added 39 yards receiving. Logan was held to 38 yards on 13 carries.
The Sandlappers fumbled the ensuing kickoff but Lee Wright intercepted a pass in the end zone on the ensuing North Carolina drive to keep the lead from expanding.
South Carolina turned that into a 13-play, 80-yard drive for the go-ahead touchdown, a 5-yard run by Mykal Moody with 14:03 to play.
North Carolina had its next drive stall, but brought on Oregon recruit Matthew Wogan of Indian Trial Porter Ridge for a 48-yard field goal attempt. The kick sailed low when the ball fell off the tee just as Wogan kicked it.
“The defense played real well and our offensive in spurts looked real good,” Smith said. “Just the turnovers were tough on us. We had the interception on the wheel route and missed out on three points when the ball fell off of the tee. Just one of those days.”
South Carolina came right back with another 80-yard drive to push the lead to 23-13 on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Michael Juilan to Keinan Lewis. The big play of that drive was a 40-yard reception from Malcolm Green on third-and-11 from the South Carolina 19.
Green (98 yards receiving) was named South Carolina’s offensive MVP. Clemson recruit Ben Boulware, a linebacker, was the Sandlappers’ defensive MVP. He had nine tackles, an interception and recovered a teammate’s fumble.
North Carolina cut the lead to 23-19 on a 10-yard touchdown run by Noah Suber with 36 seconds to play, but couldn’t recover its onside kick attempt.
“It was a great week with great kids,” Smith said. “You’d love to win, but you realize the best part of this week is to get to work with a great, talented bunch of kids and to raise money to help children who need medical care.”