The Cleveland Rams won a shootout against visiting Union Pines, 56-42, in the first round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3AA football playoffs.
Rams (9-3) quarterback Caiden Norman threw for 277 yards and totaled six scores, and Tyson Dew ran for 234 yards and a score. The Rams will advance to play 3-seed Western Alamance next week in the second round.
Entering the fourth quarter tied at 28, Cleveland scored three times in three minutes to take control of the game. Norman threw two touchdowns to Jacob Scott, 41 and 45 yards, and ran from two yards out to give the Rams a 49-35 lead with seven minutes remaining.
Union Pines (6-6) answered with a Kalon Green 1-yard score with 3:25 left in the game. But a failed onside kick and Dew’s 22-yard touchdown run sealed the victory for the Rams.
The Rams jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead when Norman hit Scott for a 28-yard score. The Rams then recovered the ensuing onside kick before Norman found Jake Mason down the field for a 17-yard score before Union Pines’ offense even took the field.
Union Pines clawed back into the game with three straight touchdowns spanning the end of the second quarter and middle of the third quarter. Trailing 21-7 in the second, Josh Polidori hit Jack Tercheria for a 62-yard touchdown. Two minutes later, the quarterback-receiver duo connected for a two-yard touchdown, before Justin Eberhart’s 34-yard run gave the Vikings its first lead.
The offenses continued to duel. The two teams traded scores again, with Dew rushing for a 4-yard score, and Eberhart going for a 15-yard touchdown run just two minutes later. The Rams eventually pulled away with Norman’s three-straight touchdowns.