They entered, by design, to AC/DC — Hell's Bells.
Then scored touchdowns, took punches, reorganized and played on, their backing band remixing a chorus not heard in 2,338 days.
A reunion, it was, between old shadows and new form.
Championship form, as it turned out, what with Roanoke Rapids dispatching Warren County, 35-18, on Friday to earn the school’s first Northern Carolina 1A/2A Conference title in seven years — just never, for a hot second, the easy way.
“We just — in the first half, we just could not make plays,” RRHS head coach Chris Lyons said of the drama, which chartered scoreless through the opening 12 minutes. “We were there to make plays, and we just could not make ‘em. And we made ‘em in the second half — just so proud.”
Call it plan over panic, if anything, and substance over style.
Late turbulence, then none
Leading 14-0 with 7:26 remaining in the first half, the hosts watched as Warren County took to the air, finding profit in the hands of wideout Elijah Boyd, whose two-touchdown effort in the waning daylight diminished an energetic Buzz City assembly.
At the break, RRHS held a 21-18 lead — and schemed to modify Boyd’s friendly skies.
“So, let’s put (Matthew) MacNichol, our best coverage guy, on him, and let’s put Jon Temple over the top with Chris (Stewart),” Lyons said of the team’s single-side coverage adjustment. “We decided to do that, (and) I think that was the difference in the game.”
Indeed, as Boyd — long, quick and blessed with the gift to make tough grabs in traffic — failed to make a catch in the final stanza.
A case for honors
Any question about who has been the league’s Most Valuable Player this season likely went to pasture on Friday, courtesy of Austin Geary, who staged yet another game-defining performance — as in, three touchdowns, a pick of Warren County quarterback Najah Williams and, when his team required a jolt, the ability to mix script with sizzle.
“Just an absolute stud,” Lyons said of the hyper-productive sophomore. “We talked about us not making plays — he makes plays, man. He just makes plays. The first touchdown, long run, that wasn’t even our blocking. That was just him seeing something, he had a cutback lane.”
And ultimately, the highway to title-town — where proof of who you've been along the way factors just as much as your standing for ceremony.
Final thoughts… just not final-final
Stopped and started on three occasions this season by that-thing-we-won’t speak of — in addition to losing starting quarterback Bennett Liverman in the season-opener — the Jackets have proven a study in perseverance, and the character it takes to repeatedly stack old on top of new.
None of this, simply put, has been easy.
But with cooperative energy from the likes of Josh Coker, AJ Stewart, Xavier Clements, Doug Merritt, Jaelin Holmes, Zach Navarro, Jalen Johnson and a host of other gamers — these kids got it done, with time enough yet to prep for rival Bunn on Friday.
Alas, you can bet they’ll be there, on-time and ready to roll — albeit skipping to a new, yet old, tune.
Guess which one?
Roanoke Rapids 35,
Warren County 18
R — Austin Geary 75 rush (Merritt PAT), 10:11
R — Austin Geary 10 rush (Merritt PAT), 7:26
W — Rodney Jacobs 34 pass from Najah Williams (conversion failed), 4:47
R — Matthew MacNichol 65 kick return (Merritt PAT), 4:34
W — Elijah Boyd 19 pass from Najah Williams (conversion failed), 3:27
W — Elijah Boyd 16 pass from Najah Williams (conversion failed), :10
R — Jamari Edwards 8 rush (Merritt PAT), 7:05
R — Austin Geary 36 rush (Merritt PAT), 10:48