A spirited march to another state title came up short for Reynolds High on a frigid Saturday night in Durham.
An efficient New Hanover offense that scored on its first three possessions of the second half and a defense that forced the Rockets to settle for underneath passes was too much to overcome, and the result was a 27-17 win by the Wildcats in the 3AA state championship game at Wallace Wade Stadium.
After a sedate first half ended in a 7-7 tie, the Wildcats (15-1) twice answered Reynolds scores with touchdowns and then marched to the end zone on a 15-play drive for the score that clinched the program’s first state title since Sonny Jurgensen was the New Hanover quarterback 64 years ago.
The Rockets (14-2) had leads of 10-7 and 17-14 in the first seven minutes of the second half but couldn’t slow down a Wildcats’ offense that gained 180 yards in the second half.
The Wildcats struck quickly - a 75-yard TD pass from Blake Walston to Colt Tanner on their first play of the third period – and twice scored patiently, with run-dominated drives of eight and 15 plays.
Reynolds quarterback Alex Flinn completed 13 of 22 passes in the second half, but nine of those completions were for eight yards or less as the New Hanover defense was effective in keeping the Rockets receivers in front of them.
An explosive Reynolds offense that averaged more than 40 points a game through its first 15 starts reached the end zone just twice – on Flinn’s 11-yard run in the second period and a five-yard pass from Nathan St. Onge to Talon Jones in the third quarter.
Reynolds was chasing its fourth state title in 19 years after winning championships in 1999, 2002 and 2009.
Wiz Vaughn, New Hanover’s breakaway receiver who came into the game with 85 receptions for 1,380 yards, moved to the backfield in the second half and gained 74 yards rushing, including a 1-yard score.
Flinn finished 28-of-43 for 216 yards, with two interceptions.