Chapel Hill High School’s secondary had struggled in the weeks leading up to the Class 3AA playoffs. A first-round matchup against West Brunswick provided a much-needed confidence boost.
The Tigers intercepted three passes, forced six turnovers and pulled away in the second half to win 42-14 Friday against the Trojans, the fifth seed in the East Region.
The No. 12 Tigers (9-3) will play at No. 4 Terry Sanford next Friday.
“It was a game where our secondary needed the opportunity they got tonight,” Tigers coach Isaac Marsh said. “I thought, the past couple of weeks, we hadn’t played in the secondary well. I thought we had a good week of practice. We worked on some different coverages with them, and the guys played extremely well.”
Andrew Gillespie had two interceptions to lead the way for the Tigers, the second of which led to a game-clinching touchdown in the third quarter.
Poor execution at the end of drives hampered West Brunswick (5-7). Two of three first drives that got inside the Chapel Hill 10-yard line ended without points.
A 13-play drive took five minutes off the clock in the first quarter, but it ended on a sack followed by Gillespie’s first interception.
Trailing 21-7 in the second quarter, the Trojans had an 11-play drive take up almost five minutes. After a penalty cost West Brunswick five yards on 4th and 2 from the Tigers’ 4-yard line, an incomplete pass ended another promising drive.
“When you hit adversity, you need good senior leadership to pull you through,” West coach Bob Hanna said.
Chapel Hill struck quick. It opened the game with a 10-play drive capped by a short run by Ricki McDowell. After a West Brunswick punt, the Tigers scored on the next play, a 55-yard pass from Connor Stough to Arkavius Parks.
After West Brunswick answered with a Bubba McCray touchdown run, Stough found Parks again for another touchdown. The Tigers entered halftime with a 21-7 lead.
“Our offensive guys do a wonderful job,” Marsh said.
West Brunswick pulled within 21-14 and forced a punt but went backward. A short punt gave Chapel Hill the ball at the Trojans’ 30-yard line, and the Tigers scored six plays later.
The Tigers intercepted their third pass on the next West Brunswick possession, and Stough found Parks for the third time to put the Tigers ahead 35-14.
Stough was 19-of-26 for 248 yards. The Tigers, however, lost McDowell in the first quarter to a knee injury.
The fear is McDowell tore ligaments in his knee, but Marsh will know more next week.
“He’s the heart and soul of our team,” Marsh said. “I’m hoping his injury isn’t as bad as the trainers think that it is.”