Tigers run to state title
Sat. December 14, 2013 at 9:20 p.m. | By Eric Detweiler | StarNews Staff Writer | Eric.Detweiler@starnewsonline.com
James Kenan's Keevon Miller (right) hugs Devonte Faison on the sideline as the clock winds down during the 1AA state championship game in Winston-Salem on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013. The Tigers beat West Montgomery 42-14. Photo by Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez
WINSTON-SALEM | James Kenan senior Marcelias Sutton sat on the dais in the BB&T Field media room more than 20 minutes after Saturday’s Class 1AA state football final with chattering teeth.
Stripped of his soaking wet pads, Sutton finally allowed the effects of an afternoon slogging through steady rain to set in for the first time. The Tigers thrived in the tough conditions, with the N.C. State recruit leading a rushing attack that battered West Montgomery in a 42-14 victory.
James Kenan turned to its goal line set to combat the elements and rushed for 433 yards with only one pass attempt in a dominating effort that capped a perfect season with the Warsaw school’s third state title and first since 2007.
“Especially in that rain, we weren’t about to go out there and try to do the pass game,” said Sutton, who finished with 186 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. “We like to run the ball.”
James Kenan (15-0) needed grind-it-out wins the past two weeks to secure a spot in the championship game, but the team saved their shivering fans similar drama this time. The Tigers scored on five straight first-half possessions to blow past West Montgomery (14-2), piling up points with a simple formula.
After James Kenan went three-and-out on its first drive, coach Ken Avent Jr. sent his offense out in its goal line formation.
Operating out of the tight set, the offensive line consistently created seams for the running backs to shoot up the middle or bounce outside. Sutton and junior JaQuan Williams took turns gashing the Warriors, running behind senior fullback Daniel Montoya.
James Kenan trailed 14-7 after A.J. Collins returned a kickoff 88 yards for a score late in the first quarter. By the time Williams sprinted 67 yards for a touchdown with 3 minutes left before half, the Tigers led 34-14. None of James Kenan’s first-half scoring drives lasted more than seven plays.
“If they stopped it, we were going to be in trouble,” Avent said. “We were able to move it. I think the weather did help us out some.”
Sutton also tallied a game-high nine tackles on the way to most valuable player honors. Williams was named his team’s outstanding offensive player after racking up 174 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
West Montgomery struggled to stop the dynamic backs, even after switching to a six-man defensive front.
“They ran the same play over and over again,” West Montgomery coach Nick Eddins said. “We just weren’t able to stop it.”
James Kenan’s defense didn’t give up much after West Montgomery scored quickly on the game’s opening drive. After the kickoff return score, the Warriors finished the game with three punts, two lost fumbles, an interception and a failed fake punt.
James Kenan closed the scoring midway through the third quarter with Sutton’s 1-yard touchdown run. The fourth-down plunge ended a nine-play, 49-yard march to start the second half, solidifying the Tigers’ hold on the game.
Sutton was finished playing offense with about five minutes to go and wrapped Avent in a hug as he reached the sideline. After the trophy presentation, the back made his way to meet the media, cold but satisfied he’d finished his high school career with a championship performance.
“It feels real good,” Sutton said. “Words can’t explain how I feel right now.”