GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA – Sophomore kicker Jackson Henry calmly booted a 20-yard field, in the third overtime, to lift the Grimsley Whirlies to a thrilling, 40-37, victory over Hough in a quarterfinal round game of the North Carolina 4A state playoffs, Friday night.
Grimsley (14-0) survived an epic back-and-forth battle which saw six lead changes and three ties, before Henry's decisive boot set off a massive celebration for the Whirles and their faithful.
Tied at 23 at the end of regulation, both squads scored touchdowns in the first overtime.
Tad Hudson would score on the first play of overtime for the Huskies, on a 10-yard run, to make the score 30-23, and the Whirlies would tie it up with a 5-yard run by Mitchell Summers to end the first overtime tied at 30.
Ryan Stephens pushed the Whirlies back in front, 37-30, with a one-yard run into the end zone, on the first possession of the second overtime series. On their possession, the Huskies were backed up due to penalties, but J.T. Smith bailed out his team with a 15-yard TD run to tie the game again, 37-37.
However, Smith was stopped short of the goal line, on a fourth down play, to start the third overtime, as Grimsley defenders Jamaal Jarrett and Chris Young made the big play. This set the stage for Henry's game-winner.
Grimsley head coach Darryl Brown was impressed with his team’s high energy win.
“It was gutty," said Brown. "We stayed true to what we believed would make a difference. Our kids never wavered, continued to believe and we made plays when we had to make them.”
Hough had given up just 85 points in their first 13, including just seven to top-ranked East Forsyth, last Friday in the third round.
The first half of the game was a defensive battle with Hough getting an early opportunity by recovering a muffed punt by the Whirlies. That led to field goal by Nolan Hauser, for an early 3-0 lead.
Grimsley scored the game's first touchdown with a 3-yard run by Stephens to take its first lead, but the Huskies countered with two more field goals from Hauser and led 9-7 at the half.
The defenses continued to prevail in the third quarter with the only real scoring opportunity coming on a missed 52-yard field goal attempt by Hauser, sending the game into the fourth quarter with Hough still clinging to its, 9-7 advantage.
The Whirlies special teams unit came up big with a recovered punt by Summers in Hough territory early in the fourth quarter. On a fourth down attempt, Stephens connected with star receiver Alex Taylor for a 22-yard touchdown pass and tight end Nolan Albright would make a two-point conversion catch to put the Whirlies up 15-9 with 7:32 remaining in regulation.
The Grimsley lead would not last long as Hough quickly respond with a 13-yard rushing score by Smith to get back on top, 16-15, with 4:40 left.
With offenses suddenly clicking, the Whirlies regained the lead when Summers broke free for a 71-yard touchdown run. After Stephens converted a two-point conversion run, the Whirlies were in front 23-16 with 3:22 left in the fourth quarter.
Hough continued to battle and, with the aid of two costly Grimsley penalties, moved into the Whirlies' territory where Hudson found Sequan Osborne for a 24-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 23 with 1:07 remaining.
Not wishing to risk a mistake, Grimsley elected to run out the clock and take its chances in overtime, which ultimately paid off.