After an early-week film session, Bunn coach David Howle stopped by a local grocery store, where a cashier was anxious to learn more about Monroe – the Wildcats’ pending opponent in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 2AA football championship.
“I told her that Monroe was very, very good,” Howle said. “Really good. Unfortunately.”
The rest of the Bunn community – more than 5,000 strong – discovered that not-so-secret assessment Saturday as the Redhawks capped off their undefeated season with a 38-19 victory over the Wildcats in the 2AA finale at Carter-Finley Stadium.
Bunn (13-3), making its first-ever gridiron championship appearance, was unable to counteract Monroe’s (16-0) speed on both sides of the ball, along with the Redhawks’ ability to spread the field while creating matchup difficulties.
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“We knew (Monroe) was very athletic and had guys who could run,” Howle said. “It’s hard to simulate in practice what they do. We’ve faced some spread teams, but not with those types of athletes. We knew we had to play a perfect game and not get down.”
Monroe never trailed after putting together a quick, 47-yard scoring drive on its first possession of the game. Quarterback Zephaniah Wall, who threw for four touchdowns, found Desmen Robinson on a 2-yard play action pass in the end zone at the 7:32 mark of the opening period.
Bunn’s defense helped keep the score close for awhile, thanks in part to a fumble recovery from Joseph Price and an interception courtesy of Josh Terlizzi.
But the Wildcats were unable to sustain consistent possession, and Monroe eventually struck again when Wall found Braxton Knotts for a 26-yard touchdown with 7:46 remaining before halftime.
After a Bunn punt, Wall finished off the half with a perfectly placed deep out pattern to Jadarious McManus from 23 yards out just 3:29 in front of the break.
The Redhawks needed just 26 ticks into the second half to tack on another score as a quick screen to McManus resulted in a 60-yard touchdown catch-and-run to all but seal the crown for Monroe at 28-0.
Bunn was able to find the end zone on Chris Bumpers’ 1-yard plunge with 1:19 remaining in the third stanza. Fullback Omar Rosa (10-yard rumble) and halfback Tevin Perry (11-yard sprint off a counter) finished the Wildcats’ scoring with touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Monroe closed with 507 total yards -- 283 in the air and 224 on the ground. The Wildcats, who forced a trio of Redhawks’ turnovers, gained 281 total yards, with Perry, his club’s Offensive MVP, delivering 158 rushing yards on 28 attempts. Terlizzi was tabbed as Bunn’s Defensive MVP.
For the Wildcats, the journey proved to be as important as the destination as Bunn rallied late to claim victories in both the state quarterfinals and semifinals – and realized Howle’s three-decade goal of taking his club to a state championship game.
“We had the whole town on fire because of us,” said Bunn fullback Davonte Caldwell. “I wasn’t surprised to see all of our people here.”