Published: 09:53 PM, Sun Nov 25, 2012
Jack Britt uses defense to reach state title game
GARNER - Jack Britt receiver Jalen McDaniel is an N.C. State recruit, but he'll happily put aside his college allegiance to play in Chapel Hill on Saturday.
By posting a 14-8 victory against Garner on Friday, Britt earned a berth in the 4-AA state title game at North Carolina's Kenan Stadium.
"We're going to play where the sky is always blue, so I'm excited," McDaniel said.
Saturday at 11 a.m., the Buccaneers (13-2) take on Matthews Butler (14-0) in a rematch of a 2009 state final that the Bulldogs won 48-17. Britt, which lost 19-17 to Greenville Rose in the 2004 final and 38-35 to Richmond Senior in the 2008 final, is returning to the championship round in Brian Rimpf's first season as head coach.
The Bucs' path to this point has involved serious drama but contrasting styles.
Britt quarterback Mark McRae accounted for seven touchdowns and 426 of his team's 557 yards in a 56-52 thriller against Richmond in the state quarterfinals.
With eight minutes remaining against Garner, the Bucs had been limited to 139 yards and no points. Late interceptions by Jaquise Foster, Andre Scott, Dylan Clayton and Keon Young helped propel them to a come-from-behind victory.
"Our offense, last game, they had our back against Richmond," Scott said, "so we told them we'd have their back, and they had faith in us."
TD called back
It looked like Britt was in store for another shootout when it scored an 80-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage.
McRae gave the ball to running back Marquis Foshee, who handed it to McDaniel on a reverse. McRae accepted a pitch from McDaniel and fired downfield to a wide-open Edmund Grant, who caught the pass at Garner's 33 and streaked into the end zone.
A flag for holding negated the play, and the Bucs were behind 6-0 late in the first half when McRae lost a mishandled snap on third-and-goal from the 8. He was sacked by Tyler Starowicz for a third-quarter safety, and video replays revealed that Britt might have caught a break when Garner receiver Armani Lanier was ruled out of bounds on a 28-yard touchdown catch following the free kick.
The game turned on a pump-and-go throw with less than eight minutes left. The Trojans were in position to extend their lead, but Foster recorded a relatively easy interception at Britt's 11-yard line and returned the ball to Garner's 35.
Running back Eric Carter scored on the next play, and he gained 25 yards immediately after Scott came up with his interception. That set up McRae's go-ahead touchdown pass to Grant.
"We knew Garner had a good defense," McRae said. "When we needed to make plays, we made plays, especially Carter."
The Trojans limited McRae to 78 passing yards on 11 completions, none longer than 17 yards, and the explosive McDaniel finished with 21 yards on three receptions.
McRae did manage a 31-yard keeper in the closing minutes, and Carter led the way with 126 yards on 14 carries.
It was enough to give Britt its most defensive-minded playoff win since 2004. Garner, which averaged 63.7 points in its three postseason victories prior to the East Regional final, hadn't been held below 20 points since the 2010 opener.
"A chance to win it all," Carter said, "is something we've had our mind set on since the summer."
Staff writer Bret Strelow can be reached at email@example.com or 486-3513.