WINSTON-SALEM — The East Lincoln Mustangs capped a perfect 16-0 run through the regular season and playoffs by defeating the three-time defending state champion Tarboro Vikings 24-20 for the first 2A football state title in school history on Saturday at Wake Forest University’s BB&T Field.
Senior East Lincoln quarterback Garrett Young, who shattered nearly every Lincoln County passing record this year, threw for 196 yards and two touchdowns — one to freshman Chazz Surratt five minutes before halftime and a game-winner to senior Tyler Brock with eight minutes left in the game.
Young was named the MVP of the game, with sophomore defensive lineman Dallas Lawing’s nine tackles earning him defensive MVP honors for the Mustangs.
“We’ve got a great bunch of guys, great coaches,” Young said. “They put all of us in the right spot and they trusted us and we just went out there and got it.”
The Vikings outgained the Mustangs 331-279 in total yardage, but Tarboro fumbled the ball six times, losing four. East Lincoln scored on all four of its red zone trips, while Tarboro missed out on both of its trips within East Lincoln’s 20-yard line.
The Vikings moved into East Lincoln territory after Brock’s fourth-quarter touchdown reception but, on fourth-and-2 from the Mustangs’ 20-yard line with less than 90 seconds left in the game, East Lincoln senior Scott McMichael tackled Tarboro’s Quentin Roberson for a 5-yard loss to seal the Mustangs’ victory.
Young took a knee and several Tarboro players fell to the turf in disbelief.
The Mustangs led the game through the entire first half, but a safety after a bad snap from the Mustangs’ 1-yard line and two touchdowns in the third quarter put Tarboro on top 20-17.
“At halftime I told the kids, ‘they’re not going to go quietly,’ and they didn’t,” Byus said. “They fought hard, which makes this even sweeter.”
The Mustangs responded with a 10-play, 80-yard drive that took 2:40 off the clock and culminated with a 13-yard strike from Young to Brock to put East Lincoln back on top.
East Lincoln senior Marquise Pharr gave the Mustangs a 7-0 lead with a 3-yard run less than two minutes into the game. Young made a 35-yard toss to Surratt earlier in the drive to put the Mustangs in scoring position.
Tarboro took its first drive deep into East Lincoln territory, but Surratt tackled Tarboro quarterback Aaron Moore and stripped the ball, with the fumble recovery by junior Mustang defensive back Moses Boyter.
The turnover touched off a 16-play, 76-yard drive by the Mustangs that culminated in a 30-yard field goal by senior kicker Cory Petersen for a 10-0 East Lincoln lead less than two minutes into the second quarter.
The Vikings needed less than a minute and two plays after the field goal to score their first touchdown. Roberson scrambled down the left sideline, with help from a huge block by sophomore offensive lineman Josh Harris on McMichael, for a 64-yard score. Roberson attempted a two-point conversion, but was stuffed in front of the goal line.
The Mustangs took the ball 64 yards down the field on the ensuing drive. Young connected with Surratt for a 3-yard score on fourth-and-goal to give East Lincoln a 17-6 lead five minutes before halftime.
East Lincoln’s first possession of the second half started from their 1-yard line after Tarboro downed a punt. A high shotgun snap sailed over Young’s head and out the back of the end zone, resulting in a safety.
The Vikings picked off a pass by Young with just over four minutes left in the third quarter. Roberson scored on the first play of the drive from 21 yards out to cut East Lincoln’s lead to 17-14. Young was intercepted again on the next drive, setting up a 43-yard run by Travonne Marshall to give Tarboro its first lead of the game.
Pharr led the East Lincoln ground attack with 34 yards on 13 carries. Senior Jesse Earnhardt led the East Lincoln receivers with seven receptions for 82 yards.