The Transylvania Times -

By Jeremiah Reed
Sports Editor 

Cavaliers Race Past Blue Devils 27-21 For Playoff Win – Brevard NC

 

Last updated 11/28/2016 at 6:42pm

Tanner Pettit closed out his Blue Devil career rushing for 27 yards and collecting a short screen pass for a touchdown as Brevard fell 27-21 to North Rowan in the second round of the 2A playoffs Friday night. (Times photos by Jeremiah Reed)

They simply ran out of time.

After trailing 10-0 at halftime and facing a six-point deficit with 42 seconds remaining and no timeouts, the Brevard Blue Devil offense looked ready to mount one final comeback bid in their second round playoff game against North Rowan.

But the sand slipped through the hourglass too soon, and Tanner Ellenberger's last-second heave to the end zone fell incomplete, bringing Brevard's best season in nearly a decade to a close.

What began as a defensive chess match ended with a fireworks show as the Blue Devils and Cavaliers combined to score 28 points in the game's final 12 minutes.

North Rowan trailed for less than 60 seconds in Friday's game, as their speed and ability to pressure the quarterback proved to be the difference.

Both teams went three-and-out on their first two possessions before Brevard moved the ball near midfield only to have a holding penalty and a sack kill the drive.

The game was scoreless after the first quarter, before the Cavaliers came up with the game's first big play via special teams.

After forcing a Blue Devil three-and-out, North blocked Samuel Kicklighter's punt attempt at the 24-yard line, eventually taking over possession at Brevard's 14.

But Brevard's defense forced a three-and-out of their own, holding North Rowan to a field goal with 5:09 left in the first half.

After another Blue Devil three-and-out on the ensuing possession, the Cavaliers took over at their 11-yard line.

From there, they showed off some of the offensive speed that makes them so dangerous.

Following a screen pass, Jayden Jones accelerated past the defensive line, broke one tackle and turned on the jets for an 89-yard score. The PAT gave North a 10-lead with 3:44 to go in the half.

Brevard moved the ball near midfield, but couldn't convert a third-and-five as the first half came to a close.

On their opening second-half possession, the Cavaliers connected on a long pass near midfield before a run from Jaleel Webster moved the ball to Brevard's 12-yard line.

Facing third-and-goal from the two, moments later, Stevi Benjamin came up with a huge tackle for a loss to hold North to another field goal and a 13-0 lead.

Meanwhile, Brevard's offensive woes carried into the second half as they went three-and-out on their first possession of the half.

But when they needed a spark, Luke Ellenberger was there.

The sophomore's first game-changing play was on special teams.

After Brevard's defense stuffed another red zone opportunity for the Cavaliers, Tanner Pettit came around the edge and blocked a 34-yard field goal attempt.

The ball rolled toward midfield, where a North player tried to pick it up, but was hammered in the process.

Ellenberger found himself the beneficiary, scooping up the fumble and racing to the end zone. Kicklighter's point after made it 13-7 and finally gave life to the home sidelines.

Ellenberger was back to work moments later, intercepting a fourth-down pass attempt in Brevard territory and returning it back to the Cavaliers' 42.

From there, Tanner Ellenberger connected with Nick Cabe to move the ball to the 28-yard line as the game entered the fourth quarter.

Moments later, on third-and-12, Ellenberger hit Lowery over the middle for a 30-yard score to tie the game before Kicklighter's PAT gave the Blue Devils their first lead, 14-13.

But just as quickly as the wave of pandemonium hit the home stands, it came crashing back down.

This time it was Webster, who bounced outside and outran everybody on the field for a 75-yard touchdown strike to put the Cavaliers back in front 20-14 less than 45 seconds after losing their advantage.

On the ensuing possession, Ellenberger lost the ball on a huge hit in the pocket from Zion Debose that reverberated throughout Memorial Stadium.

Brevard recovered but was forced to punt and North's offense was on the move again.

With the Cavaliers inside Brevard's 10, the Blue Devil defense forced a fourth down, but North quarterback Corbin Smith scurried in from eight yards out to make it a two-score game, 27-13 with 3:47 to play.

With their season on the line, the offense responded with a quick scoring drive. Passes to Lowery and an Ellenberger-to-Ellenberger connection moved the ball into Rowan territory.

A two-yard screen pass to Pettit with 2:16 remaining would draw Brevard within six points at 27-21.

The ensuing onside kick attempt went out of bounds, leaving it up to Brevard's defense to hold – as the team had just one timeout. They stopped the clock after the first play, leaving the seconds to burn for the remainder of the game.

It came down to a third-and-one – which was promptly covered up by a gang of Blue Devils – before a punt set up Brevard's final drive of the season.

The offense managed only 12 yards in 17 seconds before another Ellenberger-to-Ellenberger completion moved the ball to the North 39 with 13.9 seconds remaining.

A quick completion to Ari Williams put Brevard at the Cavaliers' 29 with 10.2 seconds to play.

Brevard narrowly avoided disaster as Ellenberger was nearly sacked before throwing the ball away – incurring an intentional grounding penalty.

It all came down to the final play, from the 35-yard line with less than a second to play.

Ellenberger looked for Cabe in the far corner of the end zone, but the receiver was swarmed by coverage and the ball was knocked to the ground.

The sound of the final whistle signaled an end to a remarkable season for Brevard, going from 2-9 last year to a formidable 10-3 squad.

Tanner Ellenberger delivers the ball as he is flushed out of the pocket. Ellenberger, who was under duress most of the night, finished 12-21 for 151 yards passing, including one passing touchdown and one rushing touchdown. Jesse Lowery had two receptions for 41 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown catch that gave Brevard a brief fourth-quarter lead.

While Brevard's defense held strong in several key situations, the Cavaliers' big-play ability was the Blue Devils' undoing.

North Rowan had two touchdowns of more than 75 yards and the offense piled up 501 total yards.

Webster had a monster game, rushing for 292 yards and picking up big chunks of yardage on the ground all night.

Offensively, Brevard started slowly, going three-and-out on five of their first seven possessions.

But once the Blue Devils got rolling, they turned it back into a ballgame.

Ellenberger finished 12-21 passing for 151 yards and a touchdown.

He also ran for one score bringing his final touchdown tally to 40 for his senior campaign.

Ellenberger's passing performance also pushed him over 2,000 yards for this season, giving him more than 6,000 passing yards in his Brevard career.

 
 

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