RALEIGH – On a snowy afternoon at Carter-Finley Stadium, the Cherokee Braves turned a 7-0 halftime deficit around in the final half, coming from behind to beat North Duplin 21-13 and capture the school’s first State Championship in football.
Braves Quarterback Tye Mintz provided most of the offense for Cherokee, accounting for two of the three Cherokee touchdowns. Mintz plowed across the goal line from five yards out with 4:38 to go in the third to bring the Braves even at 7. Then in the fourth quarter, he broke off a 51-yard run with 11:22 to go in the game that put Cherokee in front for good 13-7 after a failed PAT. Mintz rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns on his 14 carries. He added 56 yards through the air on his way to M.V.P. honors in the game. He added 13 tackles, tied for the team lead in the game, and an interception.
Just over two minutes later, Cherokee turned North Duplin over on downs at the Rebel 25-yard line, giving Cherokee a short field with the lead. Two plays later Isaiah Evans got into the end zone from 11 yards out and put the Braves up 21-7 as Mintz converted the two-point attempt on the ground. Evans was named Cherokee’s Most Outstanding Offensive Player, gaining 108 yards on 19 carries with his score.
North Duplin tried to claw back in the game as the Rebels mounted a 14-play, 64-yard drive that ended with a Kenny Sheppard 3-yard touchdown run that pulled North Duplin within one score at 21-13. However, the drive chewed up 6:18 off the fourth quarter clock, ending with just 2:42 to play.
North Duplin opened the scoring with an 11-yard touchdown run by William Archer with 6:19 to go in the first half. Archer finished the game with 116 yards on 27 carries and a score. He was named North Duplin’s Most Outstanding Offensive Player. Sheppard was tabbed the Rebels Most Outstanding Defensive Player as he led the team in tackles with seven in the game.
Defensively, the Braves were led by Zak Perez who, along with Mintz, led the team in tackles with 13. Perez added a tackle for loss to his resume in the game.
East (North Duplin) Most Outstanding Defensive Player - #7 Kenny Sheppard
East - Most Outstanding Offensive Player - #9 William Archer
West (Cherokee) Most Outstanding Defensive Player - #54 Zak Perez
West - Most Outstanding Offensive Player - #5 Isaiah Evans
MVP - West - #1 Tye Mintz, Cherokee