Fourth-down conversions, rushing game, time of possession determine outcome

Havelock lost 28-14 to Charlotte Catholic in the state 3A championship game on Saturday. Here were some of the keys to the game.

Fourth Down

On five occasions, the Havelock defense had a chance to stop the Cougars on fourth down. Charlotte Catholic converted on four of those, keeping touchdown drives alive. Havelock’s lone stop on fourth down came when Jason Wilson intercepted a Catholic pass in the end zone with 37 seconds left in the game.

“Fourth and 1, and fourth and 2, those are game-changing plays,” Charlotte Catholic coach Mike Brodowicz said. “Our line did a good job and our backs put their pads down. They can be back-breaking plays.”

On the other side, Havelock converted on just 2 of 4 fourth-down plays. The biggest came in the fourth quarter. With Havelock trailing 21-14 with 10:39 and facing a fourth-and-2 from its own 35, Khalil Barrett was tackled for no gain. Charlotte Catholic turned it into points on a Lamage McDowell 2-yard touchdown run that put the Cougars up by two scores with 4:33 left in the game.

“They did a good job getting off blocks and picking up the stop there,” Havelock coach Caleb King said.

Rushing game

Charlotte Catholic ran the ball 58 times for 272 yards, while the Rams ran it 26 times for just 67 yards. Cougars running back Milan Howard, the game’s most outstanding player, ran 29 times for 160 yards.

“It wasn’t the running backs. It was the line,” Havelock linebacker Solomon Beligotti said. “They were the best O-line we had seen all year.”

Havelock came into the game averaging 202 yards rushing per game. Barrett, Havelock’s 1,000-yard rusher, was held to 27 yards on 11 carries and one touchdown.

“Every day in practice, we practice getting 11 men to the ball,” said Charlotte Catholic’s Chase Foley, voted the team’s most outstanding defensive player for the game with seven tackles. “That prevents them from breaking tackles and that prevents big plays.”

Time of possession

Charlotte Catholic kept possession of the ball for 31:04 of the 48-minute game, limiting Havelock to just three offensive possessions in the first three quarters.

“We have explosive athletes,” Brodowicz said. “But, our game plan is to control the ball.”

The Rams scored on two of their first three possessions, but in the fourth quarter, failed on a fourth down, punted once and had the clock run out on them to end the game.

King said the Cougars simply didn’t let Havelock have the ball in the game.

“They were holding on to the ball long enough. They did a great job of that,” he said. “It was one of those things where they limited our possessions and took the air out of the ball and had some really long, sustained drives. That’s a credit to what they were doing.”