For the first time all season a team figured out how to run the ball against RCHS’s vaunted defensive front, and that proved to be costly to RCHS in a season-ending 27-20 loss to Walter Wellborn in the third round of the state playoffs Friday.
Randolph County came into Friday's game allowing just 38 rushing yards per game to opposing offenses. But Wellborn and starting quarterback Jett Smith found a way to pile up 224 yards on the ground
Smith rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries and threw for two more touchdowns, and RCHS couldn't quite match that output as the Tigers fell short of the state semifinals for the first time in three years.
RCHS held leads of 7-0 and 14-7 in the first half. Dante Jordan got things started with an 81-yard punt return following Wellborn's first possession of the ballgame. Wellborn answered with a long drive that proved that RCHS's defense was in for a tough test. Wellborn went 66 yards, all on the ground, and scored on a 4-yard touchdown run by Kentrez Hunt to tie things up at 7-7.
RCHS answered with a long drive of its own as the Tigers marched 64 yards on 12 plays and crossed the goal line on Johnathan Prothro's 1-yard dive with 10:03 left in the first half.
But Wellborn once again found an answer and scored on an 18-yard pass from Smith to James Hill to knot things up at 14-14, where the score stood at halftime.
Wellborn finally broke serve as the Panthers' defense forced a missed field goal on another long RCHS drive to open the second half. Smith and the Wellborn offense again went to work and took their first lead of the night on a 2-yard plunge by Smith. That play capped an 80-yard drive.
But RCHS was not done in this back-and-forth contest as the Tigers got a 39-yard touchdown run from Dante Jordan with 7:53 left in the game. That cut the lead to 21-20 after the PAT was no good.
Wellborn struck the final decisive blow when Smith hit Calvin Spinks on a 25-yard touchdown pass with 2:40 left to play. That touchdown was set up by a halfback pass from Spinks to Tanner McQueen on a 3rd-and-9 play that covered 33 yards.
RCHS had one last gasp and appeared to be mustering a drive, but a bad pitch on an option play led to a 15-yard loss, and Jordan's attempt at a halfback pass of his own fell incomplete on fourth down with less than a minute to play.
Jordan led RCHS with 137 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. He is among a group of seniors that have seen an unprecedented run of success for the school’s football program.
Among the records that this year’s team set or extended:
• Six straight playoff appearances
• Six straight years winning at least one playoff game
• Five straight years winning at least two playoffs games
• Five straight years of 10 or more wins
And during that time RCHS has reached the state semifinals three times and played for a state championship once. That’s a proud legacy that the class of 2020, which includes key players Jordan, Nick Sims, Johnathan Prothro, Damarcus Davis, Braxton Daniel, Daniel Benefield, Keyshawn Garrett, Marco Woodgett and Syon Barnes, leaves behind.
The Tigers finish this year with a record of 11-2.