RALEIGH — The Havelock Rams won state titles at Wake Forest and North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
They will go for the sweep on Saturday at N.C. State’s Carter-Finley Stadium.
That’s where Havelock, the two-time defending 3A champions, will play Concord in the 3A state finals. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m.
The Rams are looking to become the 12th prep football team, since the state championship game was initiated in 1972, to claim at least three-straight titles.
The last to do it was Northern Guilford (2010-12), and before that Tarboro (2008-10), West Rowan and Reidsville (2007-09).
“It’s still a special day, anytime you get a chance to play in a state championship,” Havelock coach Jim Bob Bryant said. “This is a special moment for our coaches, community and our kids, especially for some of our young kids who have never been here before.”
The game is a rematch of last season’s state championship game. Havelock trailed Concord 21-20 at halftime before rallying to win 55-21 in the championship game in Winston-Salem.
“One of Concord’s players said there is a lot of animosity toward Havelock, so I’m sure that will be front and center on Saturday at the game,” Bryant said.
Concord and Havelock both have identical 15-0 records.
“They are undefeated for a reason,” Bryant said. “I think, by far, they are the best team we will play this year, but I think we are the best team they are going to play.”
Both teams have first-year varsity quarterbacks.
Junior Travis Sabdo has 2,458 passing yards with 36 touchdowns to just five interceptions for Havelock. Sophomore Keenan Black has thrown for nearly 1,400 yards with 20 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Black engineered Concord to playoff wins over South Point and Gastonia Forestview.
“(Keenan) is a coachable young man who is an intelligent football player,” said Concord coach Glen Padgett. “When the Lord has blessed you with athletic ability, and you are coachable and you learn the game and study the game, good things happen.”
With Black, the Spiders have a more mobile quarterback and feature the running game, as opposed to last season when drop-back quarterback B.J. Beecher was under center. As a result, running back Rocky Reid has more than 3,131 rushing yards and 38 touchdowns.
“They are more of a ground and pound team this year,” Bryant said. “They spread you out to run.”
Havelock counters with a defense that is giving up just six points per game. Sophomore Keion Joyner leads the Rams with 95 tackles, seven sacks, two interceptions and three fumble recoveries. Senior Andrew Ramirez has a team-best 120 tackles and Akeno Godette has 9 1/2 sacks.
“We are excited about the opportunity, and the challenge, of playing a good Havelock team again in a state championship,” Padgett said. “Havelock is kind of a bench-mark for a great many people in the state. They’ve lost one game in three years, and they’ve dominated their opponents.
“We are going to have to play great football.”
The Rams scored their season average in a 44-20 victory over Eastern Wayne last week in the state semifinals. The Rams have two 1,000-yard running backs — Derrell Scott (1,934 yards, 22 TDs) and Taylor Woods (1,002, 14 TDs).
Micheal Bowman has 939 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns and gets help from fellow receivers Matthew Boykin (628 yards, 13 TDs) and Kyran Bowman (514 yards, 8 TDs).
“I will put it this way — we are playing in a 3A state championship game against a prolific opponent who has won the last two state championships, and hasn’t lost but one game in three years,” Padgett said. “If that doesn’t get you ready to play, nothing will. They are excited to be here and play a great program.”
Havelock owns a 29-game winning streak, including 15 in a row in the postseason.
Adam Thompson is the sports editor of the Sun Journal.