Jerry Kramer, the Hall of Fame guard for the great Vince Lombardi Green Bay teams of the 1960s, once wrote that his old Packers didn’t lose, but on a few occasions they ran out of time.
Such was the case Friday night for Seventy-First’s Falcons in the NCHSAA 3-A championship football game with Hickory at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan Stadium.
After briefly forging a one-point lead in the second half, the Falcons gave up a touchdown in the closing minute and managed a final bomb to the end zone that was intercepted as time expired to fall 33-26.
It was the first time in five attempts at a title in their final game the Falcons lost. They did have a 14-14 tie with Greensboro Page in the 1984 final.
Falcon head coach Duran McLaurin said in the post-game press conference posted on YouTube that the Falcon players had nothing to hold their heads down for following the loss.
“We had another tremendous season,’’ he said, referring to Seventy-First’s 15-1 record. “It didn’t end the way we wanted it to. Gives us something to push for next season. We’re a little disappointed right now.’’
Falcon quarterback DeAndre Nance and linebacker Zayvion Hill took top individual honors for Seventy-First in the game. Media attending voted Nance the Falcons’ offensive player of the game while Hill took defensive honors.
Nance rushed 18 times for 159 yards and two touchdowns. He also completed six of 11 passes for 90 yards and a pair of scores.
Hill was the Falcons’ leading tackler with six solos, five assists and one for loss.
Donavan Frederick also provided a big offensive spark in the second half when Nance was briefly sidelined with a minor leg problem. Frederick rushed 16 times for 122 yards.
Melik Thomas was presented the Sportsmanship Award for Seventy-First.
The Falcons briefly led 19-18 in the second half after a 38-yard scoring run by Nance.
Hickory rebounded on a 12-yard run by its offensive MVP Isaiah Lackey.
The Falcons pulled even at 26-26 when Nance found Jaydyn Surgeon with a six-yard scoring pass and Devlin Coleman added the extra point. But with 36 seconds left, Hickory went ahead for good on game MVP Brady Stober’s 8-yard run and Braeden McCourt’s kick.
Stober, a quarterback who rushed for only 74 yards during the season, hurt the Falcons multiple times with big runs for first downs and finished with five carries for 46 yards and the winning score.
With only 36 seconds left on the clock, the Falcons managed to get the ball from their 36 to the Hickory 34, aided by a pass interference call on the Red Tornadoes.
But Nance’s heave to the end zone on the game’s final play was intercepted by Hickory’s Will Prince.
Hickory finished the season 16-0, winning its first state title since 1996.