Chambers High followed a familiar pattern in beating Hough for a state title berth

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Chambers trailed 21-7 with only 15½ minutes left in the game. Cougars’ quarterback Anshon Camp had thrown for only 55 yards. And outside of one big run, Chambers’ standout running back Daylan Smothers was being held in check by Hough’s defense.

Yup … Chambers had the Huskies right where they wanted them.

A team that has made a living of strong second halves did it again Friday night, and it vaulted Chambers (14-1) into its fourth straight state championship game.

The Cougars scored 21 fourth-quarter points, beating Hough 35-21, winning the West Regional championship, and earning a spot in next Saturday’s 4A title game against Cardinal Gibbons.

It will be a rematch of Chambers’ season-opener, which it won 35-29.

Hough, the West’s top seed, lost for the first time in 15 games this season.

“We are a second-half team, and we have players who won’t give up,” said Chambers coach Glenwood Ferebee, whose team will be seeking its third straight state title.

“We came out in the second half with a lot more energy and a lot more tempo,” said Ferebee, giving the credit to offensive coordinator Quartell Wright, known among Cougars’ fans as Coach Q.

“We just made some adjustments at halftime and played with more energy,” Wright said.

A week ago, Weddington twice moved inside the Chambers 10 but failed to score a point. Friday’s game had a similar story line.

Hough fumbled the ball away at the Cougars’ 1 in the second quarter and failed to capitalize on good field position in the third period.

“We came up with some big plays on defense,” defensive coordinator Andre Cannon said. “And once that happened, our offense took advantage of it.”

The two teams were locked in a defensive struggle for most of the game, and Hough led 21-14 when Chambers took over at its 22 with 8:14 left.

The Cougars drove to the Huskies’ 23 but then went in reverse. A holding penalty, a sack, and a running play that resulted in lost yardage left Chambers with a third-and-28 from its 49.

Camp, the Cougars’ quarterback, then lofted a 49-yard pass that Kevin Concepcion caught despite excellent coverage from a Hough defender. Concepcion landed on his back, shielding the ball, at the Hough 2.

“I just concentrated on following the ball,” Concepcion said. “My quarterback gave me a great pass.”

Hough head coach Matt Jenkins said it was the turning point of the game.

“If we stopped them there, we would’ve won the game,” he said. “That was the game, right there.”

Two plays later, Camren Kennedy scored a touchdown with 2:13 left, and Melvin Benitez’ conversion kick tied the game at 21.

Chambers’ defense held Hough to a three-and-out on the next series, and the Cougars took over at the Huskies’ 41 with 1:17 left. It took them 19 seconds to score, with Daylan Smothers getting the go-ahead touchdown on a 9-yard shuffle pass from Camp.

On Hough’s first play from scrimmage after Smothers’ touchdown, Chambers’ James Pearce broke through the Huskies’ line, smacked the ball out of quarterback Tad Hudson’s hand, grabbed the ball and ran 10 yards for a score.

In about 90 seconds, Chambers had scored 21 points.

“James Pearce is the most disruptive player in America,” Cannon said. “He doesn’t get enough credit for all the things he does.”

THREE WHO MADE A DIFFERENCE

James Pearce, Chambers: A senior defensive end, Pearce forced a Hough fumble on a sack and scored a touchdown in the game’s final minute. For the game, he had two sacks, a fumble recovery, a touchdown, three passes batted down, and two tackles for loss.

Daylan Smothers, Chambers: The Cougars’ senior running back carried 14 times for 168 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Nolan Houser, Hough: In a game in which field position played a big role, Houser was important. He punted seven times for an average of 34 yards, and several of those kicks were aimed out of bounds inside the Chambers 20. All four of his kickoffs went into the end zone for touchbacks, keeping the ball away from the Cougars’ speedy return men.

WORTH MENTIONING

Chambers quarterback Anshon Camp had completed 8-of-22 passes for just 55 yards midway through the third quarter. For the rest of the game, he completed 10-of-11 for 122 yards.

As is often the case, Chambers’ defense clamped down in the second half. Hough quarterback Tad Hudson threw for 159 yards in the first half but just 48 yards after intermission.

Chambers won its first meeting this season with Cardinal Gibbons, its opponent in next week’s 4A championship. The Cougars triumphed 36-29, in a game that didn’t end until the early-morning hours. Thunderstorms in Raleigh forced lengthy delays in that Aug. 20-21 game.

The game drew a full house to Hough, with the stands packed and fans lining around the fence surrounding the playing field.

Friday’s outcome was a sad repeat for Hough. The Huskies beat Chambers (then known as Vance) in the regular season last spring, before losing to the Cougars in the playoffs.

Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle

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Chambers 7 0 7 21 – 35

Hough 7 7 7 0 – 21

H – Markell Quick 25 pass from Tad Hudson (Nolan Houser kick)

C – Daylan Smothers 78 run (Melvin Benitez kick)

H – Brodrick Gooch recovered blocked punt in end zone (Houser kick)

H – Andrew Kryshtalowych 13 pass from Hudson (Houser kick)

C – Kevin Concepcion 25 pass from Anshon Camp (Benitez kick)

C – Camren Kennedy 1 run (Benitez kick)

C – Smothers 9 run (Benitez kick)

C – James Pearce 10 fumble recovery return (Benitez kick)

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