Anyone who observed the North Davidson Black Knights’ buses rolling into Oak Grove Stadium Friday night could easily see that the Knights were fired up as the two buses were swaying from side to side as the excited players inside were waiting to hit the field. The 14th-seeded Black Knights carried that emotion onto the field thoroughly dominating the No. 3-seeded Oak Grove Grizzlies to advance to the second round of the NCHSAA Class 2-AA playoffs by virtue of a 43-7 rout.
After North Davidson Head Coach Brian Flynn and his players learned of their seeding in the playoffs on Saturday (November 9), Flynn met with his players on Monday afternoon. The discussion included recognizing how lucky they were to be in the playoffs after their roller coaster season and how fortunate they were to play their first playoff game very close to home. Although the Black Knights would face Oak Grove, the Central Carolina 2-A champion, Flynn and his staff remained optimistic. He stated that the staff challenged the players “big time” after their disappointing regular-season final against Ledford, and the players’ response on Friday night caused Flynn to remark, “They finally figured it out. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
North Davidson dominated both sides of the ball with its defense providing two touchdowns and a safety while the offense reached the end zone four times-two times on the ground and twice through the air. The initial score came during Oak Grove’s first possession when Colton Horvath broke through to tackle Grizzly quarterback Ian McGlamery for a safety giving the Black Knights an early 2-0 advantage. On the next Oak Grove possession, the Black Knights pinned the Grizzlies deep in their own territory and forced a punt. The punt traveled only 16 yards giving North Davidson a first down at the Grizzly 33-yard line. Four plays later, Mason Everhart caught a 21-yard pass from Tedric Jenkins for the first touchdown of the game with 1:33 remaining in the first stanza.
Oak Grove continued to have trouble moving the ball against the rugged North Davidson defense whose primary goal was to stop the Grizzlies’ outstanding running back Aiden Shewcow. Postgame Coach Flynn revealed that the Black Knights’ defensive plan was simply to stop Shewcow. He remarked, “You know, you gotta stop #9. He’s a great back and runs the ball extremely well. That was our focus. We said if they are going to beat us tonight, the quarterback is going to beat us with his arm.” The game plan worked to perfection as the Black Knights limited Shewcow to 46 rushing yards while quarterback McGlamery was under pressure throughout the game and completed only 11 of 34 passes for 56 yards.
While Oak Grove’s offense was stymied, the North Davidson offense tacked on two touchdowns in the 2nd quarter to break the game open. The first score was the result of a 4-yard run by quarterback Jenkins, and the second touchdown came on another connection between Jenkins and wide receiver Everhart--a 61-yard bomb. Everhart explained that as soon as Oak Grove switched to man-to-man coverage, he knew he could run by the defensive backs and he just needed Jenkins to throw the ball to him.
Following intermission, the Black Knights continued their domination of the game. The Grizzlies received the second half kickoff but failed to gain a first down. Another short punt by Oak Grove set the Black Knights up at the Oak Grove 34-yard line. On the first play, defensive linebacker turned running back, Lavon Pinckney, took the handoff and rumbled through the Grizzly defense for a 34-yard score. It was only the fourth carry of the season for Pinckney, but he looked like he had played halfback all season on his run. The successful extra point was added pushing the North Davidson margin to 30-0.
As the North Davidson offense slowed down somewhat after the Pinckney score, it was time for the defense to put some points on the scoreboard. As the third quarter was winding down, the Black Knights had pick-sixes on successive Oak Grove possessions. First it was defensive back Jamarien Dalton with a shifty 40-yard return following his pick of a McGlamery pass with 4:19 left in the quarter. On the next Oak Grove possession, Pinckney, who was playing linebacker, jumped in front of a McGlamery pass and returned it 66 yards to pay dirt for his second score of the quarter. The scoreboard now showed North Davidson leading 43-0 with 2:33 yet to play in the 3rd quarter.
Displaying a never-die attitude, Oak Grove finally mounted a touchdown drive after receiving the kickoff. Adeptly mixing its running and passing plays, the Grizzlies drove 78 yards to score. Shewcow reached the end zone on a 7-yard run with only 7:41 left on the clock. Neither team threatened to score in the closing moments; and when the final horn sounded, the Black Knights’ players, coaches and fans celebrated the 43-7 victory.
The loss ended a very successful season for Oak Grove as they claimed the conference championship in only its second season. Coach Mark Holcomb’s team ended the season with an outstanding 10-2 record. With many of its key players returning next season, it appears that the Grizzlies will again be a force in the Central Carolina 2-A conference.
Meanwhile the Black Knights who lost their starting quarterback, Landon Moore, to a torn ACL in the first meeting with Oak Grove, will prepare for a second round matchup with No. 6 seed Hertford County. With Tedric Jenkins filling in for Moore, North Davidson has now won seven of its last nine games. Because Jenkins has not been in the Black Knights’ system very long, it has taken some time for him to become comfortable with all that is expected of him. Flynn, however, emphasized, “He has really progressed and I couldn’t be more proud of him.” And commenting on his entire team after the victory, Flynn declared, “We knew we could play this way. I hate that it took so long to happen.”
The Black Knights have a 4 ½ hour bus ride to Hertford County on Friday, but if the players can get the buses rocking again, look for them to continue their outstanding play and bring home another big victory.