MOORESVILLE – Mooresville, North Carolina, is known as “Race City, USA.”
Mooresville’s football team used an impressive display of speed to pull away from the McDowell Titans 51-10 in the opening round of the 4A State Football Playoffs Friday night.
The No. 5 seed Blue Devils, with the victory (9-3), will extend their season into the Thanksgiving holiday and will travel to Greensboro on Black Friday to play fourth seed Grimsley High School in the second round.
McDowell (4-8) came into the game knowing it had to offset Mooresville’s quickness and explosive offense, and for about one-and-a-half-quarters was able to do so with the help of a pair of Blue Devil turnovers.
The team was also the beneficiary early on of Mooresville not having one of its key pieces in the lineup. Junior quarterback Hunter DeBerardino did not dress due to lingering effects of a concussion suffered a week earlier in the Blue Devils’ regular-season finale against 4AA power Mallard Creek. Receiver Sean Hill took the reins as he converted to signal caller for the night.
The Titans went to work on the opening possession being creative with the football.
Adam Randolph, on the first play from scrimmage at the McDowell 20, tossed a quick lateral to Richard Handy, who then tossed a pass to a wide-open Dakota Effler down the Titan sideline for 45 yards.
While not ultimately turning that first play into a touchdown, McDowell was able to get points on the board as Seth Baird nailed a 27-yard field goal at the 7:00 mark to go up 3-0.
Mooresville answered later in the first quarter with a 99-yard drive after a Baird punt pinned the Devils to the shadow of their own goal line.
Hill, after gaining two yards with his feet on first down, was able to connect with tailback Quamir Conner on 9-yard pass play in the flat to give Mooresville some breathing room. A few plays later, receiver Keshaun Black took a jet sweep and rounded the corner, going 60 yards to put the Blue Devils in front 7-3 with 3:32 left in the first.
Black also repeated the feat on the next drive, this time weaving through traffic down the home sideline and scoring from 25 yards out, making it 14-3 with 1:07 left in the opening quarter.
Even with the obvious mismatch on the field, the Titans were able to hang around, thanks in part to a miscue. Tice Edwards recovered an errant snap that deflected off a Mooresvlle player who was sprinting in motion. The carom popped up into the air and into Edwards’ hands, and the senior sprinted 25 yards to pay dirt to shrink the Blue Devils lead to 14-10.
Unfortunately that was where a lot of the good fortunes for McDowell ended.
Mooresville got itself on track, starting with another long drive of 88 yards. Conner opened it with a 13-yard run and from there it was off to the races. Hill, on a third-down play, broke a couple missed tackles and scored from 58 yards, making it 21-10 with 6:44 left in the half.
The Blue Devils added two more scoring drives before the half to create separation. Hill ran in a 1-yard run at the 3:40 mark and then tossed a 25-yard touchdown pass to Conner on the final drive of the half, giving Mooresville a 35-10 lead a matter of seconds prior to the half.
That surge of 21 points in eight minutes put the game to rest.
The Blue Devils scored two additional touchdowns in the second half along with a safety for good measure.
Offensively, McDowell struggled most of the night, especially after that first drive in the game. The Titans never reached Mooresville territory after the first two possession of the game and had 122 yards offensively.
Including miscues on errant snaps or fumbles, the Titans finished with negative yardage on the ground. Tailback J.C. Olivo had very few holes to open up in the field and the ones that did closed quickly. He gained 20 yards on the ground on 15 carries.
However some history was made on the night as Titan quarterback Adam Randolph (15-of-27, 97 yards) passed the 2000-passing yard mark, becoming the first McDowell quarterback to reach that plateau. Randolph, early in the second quarter, completed a 15-yard play to his brother Andruw (7 receptions, 54 yards) giving him that mark. Randolph finishes the season 148-of-227 for 2,050 yards and 18 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. His touchdown total tied for the school’s single-season record.
Dakota Effler had 55 receiving yards on three catches and Steven Webb had 21 receiving yards.
McDowell now holds a 1-18 playoff record in the postseason with a playoff losing streak that goes back 25 years.