Just when it looked like Riverwatch was about to repeat as county champion, Vickery Creek had other plans.
Down by a point with under four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Vickery Creek quarterback Zach Burns captained a 68-yard drive that ended with him stretching the ball across the goal line with 36 seconds on the clock, as the Vipers knocked off unbeaten Riverwatch 14-7 in a rematch of the 2011 Forsyth County middle school championship on Tuesday night at Lambert High School.
The Vipers’ championship is their fourth in school history and the first since they won back-to-back titles in 2007 and 2008. Riverwatch defeated the Vipers 22-12 in last year’s title game.
Riverwatch (8-1) nearly denied Vickery Creek (8-1) for the second year in a row after pulling ahead 7-6 with 3:57 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Instead, Burns and the Vipers had just enough time to respond.
"With one drive left, it was all or nothing," Burns said. "You’ve got to have a mindset that says you can do it and nothing will stop us. ... Everyone did a great job.
"I’m always nervous before every game. Being a seventh grader, there’s a lot of things going against you — a lot of negativity — but being nervous is good sometimes.
"We were always talking about how we were going to win this one, but when they scored that last touchdown the momentum shifted, but I stayed positive and kept the guys going."
Burns (4-of-7, 52 yards passing, INT) kept the drive alive on fourth-and-three when he connected with Joey Congrove for 13 yards at the Riverwatch 22-yard line with 1:54 left on the clock.
After a run for no gain, he found Ben Bresnahan for a 15-yard pickup to put the ball on the 7. Zach Wheeler took the handoff for two yards before Burns capped the 11-play drive with a 5-yard quarterback draw for a touchdown with only 36 seconds left in the quarter. Burns passed to Grant Torgerson for the two-point conversion to make the score 14-7.
"We have a really special group of kids," Vickery Creek head coach Mark Taylor said. "They fought all season long. We lost to a great Riverwatch team during the regular season, and to come back and win this, I feel happy for the kids.
"[A lot of] credit goes to Riverwatch. They did a fantastic job. It was a great season for them. I feel bad a team has to lose in this situation, but I’m glad the boys won."
With the Panthers trailing 6-0 midway through the fourth quarter, they forced Vickery Creek to punt from its own end zone and returned the punt to the 36-yard line. It only took five plays until backup quarterback Richie Kenney, who replaced starter Reid Martin in the second quarter due to an injury, hooked up with Alex Walker for a 14-yard touchdown strike in the corner of the end zone. Nikolas Propes kicked the extra point to give Riverwatch a 7-6 lead.
Vickery Creek’s defense held Riverwatch to only 91 yards of offense and six first downs in the game.
"We knew it was going to be a pretty tight game that could have gone either way," Taylor said. "It was two evenly matched teams. I expected [the game] to be close."
After both teams went into halftime tied 0-0, the Vipers’ defense picked up where it left off when Joey Congrove intercepted a pass at the 41-yard line.
It only took two plays for Vickery to score, as Torgerson ran 27 yards on the first play and 14 yards on the second play for a touchdown. The Vipers elected to go for the two-point conversion, but the run fell short.