Published: 12:07 AM, Fri Nov 23, 2012
Jack Britt QB Mark McRae gets healthy, set to lead Bucs into regional final
It's been a little more than a month and a half since Jack Britt quarterback Mark McRae experienced the low point of the 2012 football season.
He was sidelined by pneumonia, unable to play, watching his teammates lose a chance to win the Mid-South 4-A Conference title as they fell to E.E. Smith.
The down times weren't over, as he struggled to get back in shape and get back to the lineup.
"That was the hardest thing,'' he said. "Getting back. I was out of shape. My teammates helped me through.''
But after last Friday, it's pretty clear he's gotten over the last hurdle.
McRae's brilliant performance in Britt's stunning 56-52 win over Richmond Senior has Britt in the 4-AA Eastern Regional title game for a second consecutive year. The Buccaneers will again travel to Garner tonight, where they will face the Trojans for the right to advance to next Saturday's 4-AA state championship game at Kenan Stadium.
In the win over the Raiders, McRae completed 21 of 26 passes for 343 yards and five touchdowns. His 32-yard throw to Jalen McDaniel with 25 seconds left sealed the win.
While some people may have been hung up on the fact that Jack Britt was 0-9 against Richmond before last Friday's playoff game, McRae said the Britt team wasn't among them.
"We had never played their team, and they had never played our team,'' he said, noting that since 2008, the two teams had not been in the same conference and had not met in the regular season.
"We didn't talk about it," he said. "We studied game film, and we won.''
First-year coach Brian Rimpf agrees that the history of the series with Richmond wasn't a topic of discussion during the week. "Only three or four of our coaches had played Richmond,'' he said. "Some of our players had brothers on teams that had played Richmond. We didn't believe in Raider Magic. Our guys expected to win.''
The situation with Garner is considerably different. McRae, and many other players on the Britt team, have vivid memories of last year's game with the Trojans, which Garner won in the final minute of play. It may take another effort like last week's from McRae to get Britt a win tonight.
"Last year, when it came down to it, we didn't make the big play when we needed it, and they did,'' McRae said. "I think this year, we came together as a team more.''
Rimpf saw last year's Garner-Britt game, but in a considerably different role than he will play this year. He was an assistant coach at Harnett Central then, and he watched from the end zone.
"As far as styles, we're similar,'' he said. "This year, they have reloaded. Their quarterback makes very few mistakes.''
Rimpf doesn't think his team will be intimidated by playing on the road.
"We've been good on the road this year,'' he said. "We don't care what the score is, as long as we have more points than the other team.
"We're happy moving forward," he said. "That's what we'll focus on this week.''
Scholastic sports editor Earl Vaughan Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3519.