The Ayden-Grifton Chargers made certain Thursday night that if history was going to be made, they were going to be the team making it.
In a game postponed due to flooding following Hurricane Matthew, the Chargers used the double-barreled offensive attack of senior running backs Brandon Hardy and Modica Whitehurst to blast past North Lenoir, 34-6, in the championship game for the Eastern Carolina 2A conference.
The Chargers and Hawks entered Thursday’s contest with unblemished marks in the ECC 2A, but a combined 347 yards rushing by Hardy and Whitehurst – who also accounted for all five A-G touchdowns – handed the visitors their third league title in four seasons.
“Every year, your goal is to win a conference championship,” A-G coach Paul Cornwell said. “Winning never gets old. I’m proud of our guys. They made this the goal; we finished third last year and that just wasn’t acceptable.”
He continued: “Give the kids credit; they worked hard, set a goal and went out and achieved it.”
Coming into Thursday’s game, North Lenoir (6-5, 4-1) had never won outright or even tied for a league football title in the program’s previous 52 years of existence. It didn’t take long for Ayden-Grifton (8-3, 5-0) to make sure that streak continued for 53 seasons.
Following a North Lenoir punt on the Hawks’ first possession, Hardy streaked 69 yards for a score on A-G’s first offensive play to give the Chargers a 7-0 lead. Hardy helped the Chargers to a 14-0 halftime lead on a 15-yard run with 8:21 remaining in the second quarter.
Ayden-Grifton blew the game wide open in the third quarter when the Chargers scored three times – once by Hardy and twice by Whitehurst – to take a 34-0 lead after three frames. North Lenoir’s offense finally came to life in the fourth quarter when Stephon Swinson broke a 72-yard touchdown run to provide the final score.
For North Lenoir – playing in its first league title game in school history – the moment might’ve just been too much, according to Hawks coach Kim Brown.
“There’s no doubt the bright lights got to us tonight,” Brown said. “It was homecoming, senior night and playing for the conference championship all in one night. We had every excuse for a distraction in the world. On top of that, we were playing a good football team that came out and hit us right in the mouth from the start.”
Hardy finished with 211 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries for the Chargers, while Whitehurst had 136 yards and two scores on 20 hauls. North Lenoir was led by Swinson’s 101 yards on 16 carries and Keithan Morris’ 40 yards on 16 carries.
Both teams are locks to play in the NCHSAA playoffs, with the Hawks set to play in the 2AA bracket and the Chargers bound for the small 2A bracket.