Chapel Hill’s Cinderella state playoff run came to an end Friday night on the road against a team that has been here many times before.
C.J. Freeman rushed for 137 yards and three touchdowns, leading Northern Guilford to a 34-15 win over the Tigers in the Eastern 3AA final at Johnny Roscoe Stadium.
Northern, the No. 7 seed which had won three straight 3AA state titles before falling in the state semifinals last season, improved to 14-1. The 12th-seeded Tigers finished 11-4 after their deepest run into a 3AA football championship.
Northern will play in the championship game against Western champ Matthews Weddington (14-1) on Dec. 13 at 8 p.m. at Carter-Finley Stadium.
Freeman left Friday’s game with concussion symptoms following a hard tackle with eight minutes left in the third and did not return.
The Tigers got to the Eastern final following three straight upsets on the road, including a 39-28 shocker over fellow Big Eight member and top-seeded Southern Durham in the third round.
“We overcame a lot tonight,” Tigers coach Isaac Marsh said. “Fourth round? I couldn’t be prouder of the team and the community. I’m pleased with our effort, but we just came up short tonight.
“Tonight we played well, but just made too many mistakes, especially in the first half. We did a lot of things to get (Northern) out of rhythm, but it wasn’t enough. They disrupted our offense and I have to give them credit.”
Cam Harris completed eight of 19 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown and rushed for another.
The Tigers’ junior quarterback Connor Stough was 22 of 40 for 200 yards and a TD with four interceptions.
Northern led 20-7 at halftime.
The Nighthawks got a break on Chapel Hill’s first play from scrimmage, when Stough was sacked by Tre Marsh and Jeremiah McCoy returned the ball 12 yards. Freeman then scored from a yard out with 11 minutes, 7 seconds remaining. Tristen Simmons’ conversion kick was blocked.
Northern’s next score came on an eight-play, 80-yard march, with Freeman going in from 16 yards out with 9:55 left in the half.
The Tigers got on the board with 4:49 left in the half on a 19-yard run from Jeff McNeill to end a nine-play, 77-yard drive.
Simmons missed a 27-yard field goal with 2:31 left in the half, but Freeman added a 16-yard run with 45.2 seconds to go and Simmons’ boot completed the halftime scoring.
Harris tacked on a six-yard run with 2:26 left in the third to help make it 27-7 and his 26-yard touchdown pass to Tre Marsh on the first play of the fourth quarter sealed the Tigers’ fate.
Stough found Austin Turner from 35 yards out with 8.2 seconds left, with Lavon Hartman running the two-point conversion.