Cleveland completed a perfect run through the Two Rivers 3A Conference for the second straight year, overcoming a second-half, two-touchdown deficit for a 70-56 victory over visiting Corinth Holders on Friday.
Caiden Norman passed for 397 yards and six touchdowns, also adding a pair of touchdown runs for the Rams (8-3, 5-0), which piled up 677 yards of total offense on a night in which defense was largely an afterthought.
Norman found an open Tyson Dew for a 7-yard touchdown pass with 10 minutes, 34 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to break a 56-all tie for Cleveland. Norman’s sixth touchdown pass came via a 40-yarder to Jacob Scott with 2 minutes, 8 seconds left on a fourth-and-2 play – Scott’s fourth touchdown of the night and part of a 207-yard receiving effort.
Corinth (2-9, 2-3) led by 14 points on four different occasions, the last of those when Mike Darden scored on a 2-yard touchdown run with 6:51 remaining in the third quarter to put the Pirates ahead, 56-42. Corinth, however, came up empty on its final four possessions, two of those ending in turnovers.
The two teams combined for 84 points in a wild first half, the game’s first six possessions all ending in touchdowns. Corinth had two kickoff returns for touchdowns: the first an 80-yard return by Jimmy Ferrell and the latter a 72-yard score by Josiah Adams with 4.5 seconds left in the second quarter that gave the Pirates a 49-35 lead.
After Cleveland drew within 56-49 late in the third quarter on a Norman touchdown pass to Scott, Corinth had a chance to restore its two-touchdown later in the frame when it drove to the Rams 29 on its ensuing possession. However, a holding penalty wiped out a positive gain and on the following play Corinth lost a fumble. Five plays later, Dew scored on a 20-yard run to tie the score at 56 and Cleveland would not trail again.
THREE TO KNOW
Caiden Norman, Cleveland: The senior quarterback had a quiet start, completing only 4 of 10 passes before going 18-for-25 the rest of the way, finding holes at will in the Corinth defense.
Jacob Scott, Cleveland: The senior had a big night catching the ball with 11 receptions for 207 yards, and also made an impact defensively, intercepting a pass and also tipping away a pass in the end zone on a fourth-down play.
Mike Darden, Corinth Holders: The junior running back carried the load offensively for the Pirates, carrying the ball 30 times for 187 yards and four touchdowns.
BY THE NUMBERS
1: Number of punts in the game.
6: Consecutive possessions to begin the game that resulted in a touchdown.
18: Total touchdowns scored by both teams.
49: Combined first downs picked up.
1,055: Total yards of offense accumulated by both teams.
Cleveland figures to garner a high seed in the 3AA bracket when the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs begin in two weeks. Corinth’s season is over.