SPARTANBURG — A heavy does of special teams, dominating defense and an explosive ground game propelled the North Carolina Tarheels past South Carolina, 55-24, in the 81st annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas on Saturday at Wofford College.
The high-scoring offense included East Bladen lineman Caleb Strait.
“He started and played a lot,” said Eagles coach Robby Priest, who had been selected as an assistant coach for North Carolina squad but was unable to attend after cancer surgery recently. “They rotated guys in and out, but I would say he played three-quarters of the game.”
The game pits the best high-school senior football players from North Carolina against those from South Carolina.
On Saturday, the Tarheels’ 55 points represents the highest total a team has scored in the bowl game’s long history, which dates back to 1937.
Leading the way for the North was Ricky Person Jr., a running back from Wake Forest Heritage High and N.C. State recruit, who rushed for 180 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. He also caught a touchdown pass.
North quarterback Holton Ahlers from D.H. Conley High, and East Carolina recruit, was 11-of-18 for 156 yards and two touchdowns.
The Tarheels’ defense contained the potent South Carolina offense, as well as blocked an extra point and punt. The Tarheels’ special teams also returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the first half that helped North Carolina take a 21-12 first-quarter advantage.
After padding the lead to 28-12, North Carolina took the 28-12 lead into halftime.
South Carolina rallied in the third quarter, outscoring the Tarheels by a 12-7 margin to cut the deficit to 35-24, but the Tarheels scored 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to cement the game.
The win gives North Carolina three straight wins in the series, but the South Carolinians lead the overall series by a 44-33-4 margin.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or email@example.com.