Tre Harbison and his Crest teammates couldn’t be sure what was better: completing a second straight undefeated season with another N.C. High School Athletic Association 3AA football championship Saturday, or doing it by thumping the last team to beat the Chargers, running over Southern Durham 55-21.
Harbison was named MVP of the game after leading Crest (16-0) to its 32nd consecutive victory with his seven touchdowns and 295 yards rushing on 24 carries.
Saturday’s win was Crest’s sixth championship in 10 state finals and the first for coach Will Clark, who took over leadership of the program last spring.
Southern topped the Boiling Springs, N.C. school in the 2013 state finals 38-31.
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“This means a lot (to) me,” said Harbison, who plans to join Virginia’s football program early in January. “I know that when I was in 10th grade we should have won that game, and we didn’t. To go out there today and win this one the way we did is sweet.”
Southern (12-4) led briefly, at 10-7, after North Carolina recruit Jordan Brown threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Brown, but Crest reeled off 28 straight points on TD runs of 28, 2, 72 and 28 yards by Harbison to pull ahead 31-7.
“The thing that we always said was ‘Don’t let Southern Durham beat Southern Durham’ and we were kind of our worst enemy today with the mistakes we made,” Southern head coach Darius Robinson said.
Starting their next possession at Crest’s 40, the Spartans stemmed the bleeding with an 8-play drive, capped by a 5-yard run from Brown that cut the margin to 31-14 at halftime.
Brown, playing at quarterback for just the second week after an injury to erstwhile starter Jalen Greene, scored on runs of 1 and 5 yards in the game’s last 15 minutes, but Harbison scored runs of 4, 1 and 26 yards as Crest pulled away.
“I think (Jordon) responded well, but some of the quarterback intangibles that you need at this point of the season, you could tell he was missing,” Robinson said. “But as far as him stepping up and sacrificing his skill set to help the team, he did a great job with a short time to make those adjustments.”
Harbison’s seven touchdowns in a championship game tied him with Albemarle and former N.C. State star T.A. McLendon for second place in the NCHSAA record book. Northern Guilford and North Carolina running back T.J. Logan was the only player ever to run for eight touchdowns in a NCHSAA championship game.
“Harbison is a very powerful, explosive football player,” Robinson said. You can’t let him get out into space, because he’ll kill you.”
Justin Foster, with 10 tackles and a sack, was voted Crest’s outstanding defensive player. Quarterback Willie Green, who completed 13 of 21 passes for 163 yards with one interception, was named the Chargers’ outstanding offensive player.
“This meant a lot to me, because a lot of people doubted me when I first took over as quarterback,” Green said. “They thought I couldn’t play the quarterback position or do the things I’ve accomplished in my football career.”
Southern’s Jaleel Scroggins, who had an interception, was named his team’s outstanding defensive player.
Named Southern’s most outstanding player on offense, Brown completed 13 of 33 passes for 225 yards and ran 18 times for 24 yards and two touchdowns.
Crest scored more points on Southern than any opponent since before any of the current Spartans were in kindergarten.
“I believe this means more to our community than it does to the players and myself sitting here,” Clark said at a postgame news conference in Kenan Stadium. “For those of you who don’t know where we’re from, I believe that if you wanted to rob Boiling Springs, you could do it now. The town is empty right now, I think.