The third quarter in Cleveland’s football game against Western Alamance on Friday night belonged to the host Rams. The fourth – and most important – period belonged to the Warriors.
Trailing 23-6 at halftime, Cleveland roared back in the third quarter to score three touchdowns and take a 26-23 lead in the final minute of the third period.
A shootout in the second-round game of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3AA football playoffs set up looked eminent. But it never developed. Western Alamance outscored Cleveland 28-0 in the fourth quarter to turn back the Rams 51-26.
Western Alamance (11-2) advanced to meet Eastern Guilford in the third round. Cleveland, the Two Rivers 3A Conference champion, ended its season 9-4.
Cleveland wide receiver Jacob Scott broke the NCHSAA single-season receiving yardage record in the loss, catching eight passes for 93 yards to finish with 1,915 yards. He surpassed the mark of 1,834 set by Mohamed Massaquoi of Charlotte’s Independence High in 2004.
Cleveland, seeded second in the East, came into the game averaging 47 points per game but had trouble getting its offense going against third-seeded Western Alamance.
The Warriors jumped to a 23-0 lead before as Western quarterback Christian Daniels passed for a pair of TDs and ran 62 yards for a third score.
Cleveland finally put something together late in the second quarter, driving 80 yards for a touchdown on a 15-yard pass from Caiden Norman to Jake Mason with 43.5 seconds left in the first half.
The momentum continued for Cleveland in the second half. The Rams took the kickoff to start the half and drove to the Western 5-yard line before turning the ball over on downs.
Forcing a quick punt, the Rams took over at the Western 45 and scored in just two plays – a 34-yard pass to Jon Barnes and an 11-yard TD strike from Norman to Mason.
Western fumbled the ball back to Cleveland on its first play from scrimmage and the Rams had the ball at the Western 21. They scored in six plays, getting the TD on a 9-yard pass from Norman to Joseph James.
The lead was cut to 23-20 and the Rams recovered an onside kick – one of several they tried in the game but the only one they recovered.
With the ball at the Western 37, it took only two plays to score. Norman completed a 30-yard pass to Barnes and Barnes carried it from the 7 on reverse.
Cleveland had scored 26 straight points and was up 26-23 with 37.8 seconds left in the third quarter.
Then came the fourth period. Western’s period.
On the second play of the quarter, Daniels completed a 75-yard TD pass to Jake Christman. The Warriors were off and running.
Norman, in his final game at quarterback for the Rams, completed 23 of 40 passes for 318 yards with two interceptions.