By Scott Cole
The Blue Devils have won two games in a row for the first time since 2015 and had an outside chance of making the playoffs for the first time since 2010. However, the visiting Ayden-Grifton Chargers would not allow South Lenoir any chance to get started. After a slow first quarter, the Chargers’ offense roared to life and never looked back. They topped the Blue Devils, 42- 0.
“This was probably the most complete game we have played all year,” Ayden-Grifton Coach Paul Cornwell said. “We got off to a good start and kept pushing. One of the most important things was that we were able to finish strong; something that we have not been able to do in some of our games. “
After South Lenoir began the game going three-and-out, the Chargers struck quickly. Ray Darden ran for 18 yards on three carries while his brother, Jeff, had a 14-yard reception from Blake McLawhorn for the first touchdown of the game.
“It felt good to get the first score of the game,” Darden said. “Blake threw me a good pass. I was able to get a good route and make it through. We worked hard to win this.”
His brother concurred. “It felt great to finish the season with a big win, Ray Darden said. “We had some young guys step up. My brother made some big plays tonight. We were running on all cylinders. Now we gotta prepare for our next test.”
In the second quarter, the Chargers received the ball at midfield after a turnover on downs. Ray Darden led the team down the field, culminating in a 16-yard run that smashed right through the middle of the South Lenoir defenders. On their next possession, Marlon Cannon took a 22-yard run to the house to extend Ayden-Grifton’s lead. Jeff Darden would close out the first half on a six-yard reception to put the Chargers up 28-0.
After the teams traded possessions to start the third, Cannon scored his second touchdown of the game, this time from 17 yards out. Two minutes later on AG’s next possession, Michael Webb fielded a shovel pass flick from McLawhorn. Webb found a hole and burst up the middle for a 44-yard touchdown.
Jeff Darden would finish the game with 41 yards received while his brother, Ray, led all players with 71 yards rushing. Kevin Boomer would rush for 56 yards, Cannon would have 43 yards on the ground, and Tyler Brown would run for 40 yards.
“Cannon came up big for us tonight. So did Jeff,” Cornwell said. “We had some big plays from Boomer and Tyler. We were able to get a lot of guys involved and they played well tonight.”
While the Chargers will wait and see who they will face next week in the playoffs, the Blue Devils will have an offseason to reflect.
“This senior class has been through a lot in the last three years,” coach Jeremy Joyner said. “They came together, spent time lifting weights, and practiced hard. I’m very proud of what they accomplished here. They laid the foundation for a lot of what will be coming here in the future. They set great examples of what a football player should be. We may not have reached all of the goals we hoped for, but we were still successful in many ways.”
Joyner, in particular, praised the efforts senior Jayden Carr, who led the team with 62 yards on the ground and 28 through the air. “We’ve made a lot of strides and he has been a big part of that,” Joyner said. “He’s been a great leader and mentor for our younger players. We have a lot of sophomores and freshman who have played this season who will be back next year and stronger for the experiences they have gotten this season.”
1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH Final
Ayden-Grifton 7 21 14 0 42
South Lenoir 0 0 0 0 0
AG: Jeff Darden 14 pass from Blake McLawhorn (Wyatt Dosch kick)
AG: Ray Darden 16 run (Dosch kick)
AG: Marlon Cannon 22 run (Dosch kick)
AG: Jeff Darden 6 pass from McLawhorn (Dosch kick)
AG: Marlon Cannon 17 run (Dosch kick)
AG: Michael Webb 44 run (Dosch kick)
First Downs 11 6
Rushes-Yards 32-306 28-68
Passing-Attempts 3-6 2-4
Passing Yards 41 28
Total Yards 347 96
Penalties 1-5 3-15
Punt-Avg 1-37 6-141
RUSHING: Ayden-Grifton: R Darden 8 -71, Boomer 13-56, Cannon 3-43, Webb 2-51, Brown 2-40, McLawhorn 1-23, Dillahunt 1-12, Wright 1-7, J Crossen 1-7, C Crossen 1-3, Gunter 2- -4
South Lenoir: Carr 17-62, Davis 7-6, Harrell 2-3, McClain 2-1, Mitchell 7- -7
PASSING: Ayden-Grifton: McLawhorn 3-6 41
South Lenoir: Hooker 2-4-48
RECEIVING: Ayden-Grifton: J Darden 3-41
South Lenoir: Carr 2-48