Cardinal Gibbons and Clayton won their N.C. 4A Football second round playoff games Friday to set up a third round game next Friday (at Cardinal Gibbons) steeped in history and tradition.
Cardinal Gibbons defeated visiting Millbrook 55-21, while Clayton won 17-10 at Pinecrest (Southern Pines). The Crusaders’ win reversed the outcome of last year’s intra-Raleigh second-round game won by the Wildcats.
In 2011, Clayton visited Cardinal Gibbons for both teams’ season opener in what was Crusaders coach Steven Wright’s first game at the school. That evening, Cardinal Gibbons dedicated its new stadium field turf before winning the game 40-26. Clayton added its own field turf in Nixon-Fowler Stadium in 2021.
In 2012, Clayton was the site of the Crusaders’ 20-15 win over the Comets. This outcome is memorable, as Clayton had a touchdown negated by an “illegal forward pass” penalty. Wright said afterward he was uncertain about that call. Had that touchdown counted, the outcome would have been different, and the Crusaders would not have earned the Wright era’s first undefeated regular season.
Cardinal Gibbons and Clayton, both 10-games winners, have been involved in game-ending dramas this season. The Crusaders won their August 25 season opener over Jordan on a late touchdown catch by Chet Yardley. The Comets were felled by intra-city rival Cleveland on the last play of the schools’ regular season finale.
Rolesville running back Devon Thomas scored touchdowns on two of the Rams’ first three possessions in Friday’s 49-13 second round home win over Wake Forest. The second of those touchdowns stretched a 14-13 Rolesville lead after which the Rams held the Cougars scoreless. Rolesville, winners of 11 straight games, won at Wake Forest in last year’s state playoffs.
Fuquay-Varina traveled to Wilmington and won at Ashley, 10-7. The Bengals will play (at Rolesville) in the state playoffs’ third round for the first time since before the program’s current seniors entered middle school. Fuquay-Varina (6-6) lost in the 2022 state playoffs’ first round to Pine Forest (Fayetteville), 21-20.
Cleveland’s Byrd 4-for-4 and more
Cleveland quarterback Jackson Byrd passed for four touchdowns in his fourth straight game to lift the Rams to a 49-21 second-round win over visiting Leesville Road. Byrd passed for 268 yards, and surpassed 3,000 yards for the season. He still holds a 4-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio while completing 70 percent of his passes for 12-0 Cleveland.
Jordan fell 39-16 at Hoggard (Wilmington). The outcome did not diminish a tremendous campaign by Falcons junior running back Amareon Blue, who wowed fans with his pursuit of 2,000 rushing yards while hovering around 10 yards per carry. Another 11th grader, Leesville Road quarterback Deiondre Goldston, concluded his junior campaign with a 5-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio for the Pride as one of the Triangle’s most consistent signal callers.
Jordan won eight games. Leesville Road won nine games. Both played for conference championships in the regular season’s last week. With Blue and Goldston (among others) returning, 2024 could be poised for more.