HAVELOCK - When two teams play each other every year as Havelock and Jacksonville do, conventional wisdom would suggest both teams would win their share against the other.
The Cardinals had not beaten the Rams since 2007 and had lost earlier this season, 45-28, which was the Coastal 3A Conference title game.
Friday night though, would belong to the Cardinals as they came back from a 34-14 deficit to win 41-34 and earn the school's first trip to the state championship game since 1994.
Havelock was trying for its sixth state title game since 2011 and a rematch with Charlotte Catholic (Catholic won Friday 30-7) from last year's 3A title game, but instead, the Cardinals will get their shot at Catholic.
While the Cardinals did let their emotions go upon victory in celebration, they stuck to their team mantra of "next play" as to reason how they did it.
"Havelock's a quality team and a great opponent and by the grace of God, we came outta here with a victory," Jacksonville head coach Beau Williams said.
"It feels great to break through against them."
It was a storm of scoring the Cardinals put together after Havelock had unleashed one on them in the first half.
The Rams' Kamarro Edmonds returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown to get things started and then after a Jacksonville fumble on the ensuing kick, Havelock's Cameron Hutchinson scored on a 37-yard run for a 14-0 lead in 25 seconds time.
The Rams continued to own the first half and led 28-7 at the break.
After trading touchdowns to start the third quarter, then Jacksonville's surge got started.
The closing of the game was chaotic in many ways for the Rams.
Havelock had plenty of chances, however, as in the fourth quarter alone they fumbled twice, scored a touchdown that was called back for an ineligible man downfield penalty and then recovered a Jacksonville fumble in the closing minute only to have the officials rule the Cardinal runner down and reverse it.
Even still, Havelock had a last gasp after Jacksonville punted with 11 seconds to go.
Rams' quarterback Anthony Harris rolled to his left and launched a ball into the end zone that bounced off a Cardinal defender's hands and hit the cold turf.
Justyn Benton, Jacksonville's senior quarterback, led the comeback charge with a pair of rushing touchdowns of 11 and 25 yards, the latter which turned out to be the difference in the game.
"We just had to make sure we focused forward on the next. At halftime, down by 21, we did that and just had to come out and play our game in the second half," Benton said.
"Havelock is a great team with a great coach and a lot of great athletes that play to the end of the whistle so once again we just had to not worry about the past and focus forward."
In the other locker room, a talented senior class that went 13-1 this season and 52-6 in their careers, was realizing it had played its last game in the black and white.
"We just weren't clicking tonight on defense like we normally do and we weren't coming up in the clutch like we usually do either," Rams' senior linebacker Johnquarius Hatten said.
"The fumble play was crazy because Josh (Williams) and myself had the guy stood up and we were ripping at the football and it came out and Kamron (Hoover) jumped on it and then the ref came running in saying he was down. It's going to take a while to get over this because we always feel like the best team, they got the win and bragging rights tonight but we always feel like we're the best team, just our confidence."
Rams' coach Caleb King wasn't too talkative after the defeat.
"We just turned the ball over too many times against a real good team, credit to them," King said.
"They played better than us in the second half and it's really hard to make that momentum turn back your way after it gets away from you like that. You have to handle losses with class and tip your hat."
Jacksonville 7 0 14 20 - 41
Havelock 21 7 6 0 - 34
H - Kamarro Edmonds 97 kickoff return (Will Ferry kick)
H - Cameron Hutchinson 37 run (Ferry kick)
H - Terrance Raynor 1 run (Ferry kick)
J - Graham Brinker 43 run (Cameron Jones kick)
H - Kamron Hoover 48 pass from Anthony Harris (Ferry kick)
J - Justyn Benton 13 run (Jones kick)
H - Raynor 6 run (kick blocked)
J - Brinker 2 run (Jones kick)
J - Julian Stephens 75 pass from Kijeir Finister (Jones kick)
J - Benton 11 run (kick failed)
J - Benton 25 run (Jones kick)
Total Offense 472 506
First Downs 19 22
Rushes-Yards 60-387 54-355
Passing Yards 85 151
Comp-Att-Int 3-11-0 6-17-0
Turnovers 1 3
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 3-3
Penalties-Yards 7-50 9-55
Passing - Jacksonville - Justyn Benton 2-for-10 for 10 yards, Kijeir Finister 1-1 for 75 yards (TD); Havelock - Anthony Harris 6-17 for 151 yards (TD).
Rushing - Jacksonville - Graham Brinker 23 rushes for 181 yards (2 TD), Benton 21-108 (3 TD), Finister 16-98; Havelock - Terrance Raynor 17-102 (2 TD), Harris 16-86, Kamarro Edmonds 9-69, Cameron Hutchinson 6-62 (TD), Welton Spottsville 6-36.
Receiving - Jacksonville - Julian Stephens 1 reception for 75 yards (TD), Nyeim Morris 1-6, Finister 1-4; Havelock - Spottsville 3-73, Kamron Hoover 1-48 (TD), Josh Williams 1-19, Dru Dotter 1-11.
Jordan Honeycutt can be reached at 252-635-5670 or at firstname.lastname@example.org