North Carolina will try to make it two in a row against South Carolina in the 76th Annual Shrine Bowl at 1 p.m. at Gibbs Stadium.
The Tarheels defeated the Sandlappers 26-19 behind the second-half heroics of running back Todd Gurley (Tarboro), who rushed 19 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns. South Carolina leads the all-time series 41-30-4.
North Carolina has developed a reputation of having a strong ground game and solid defensive line. The Tarheels are led by running back T.J. Logan (Northern Guilford), who owns the state record with 510 yards in a state championship victory. He also scored eight touchdowns in the win.
Wide receiver Pharoh Cooper (Havelock) also has provided a spark, running the zone read at the quarterback position. The South Carolina commitment had experience at quarterback this season.
Defensively, the Tarheels’ front is their strength. Defensive linemen Devan’te Covington (Richmond Senior), Greg Gilmore (South View), Lewis Neal (Ashbrook) and Dane Rogers (Crest), and linebackers Larenz Bryant (Vance) and Tyquan Lewis (Tarboro) will be difficult to handle. All are committed to major Division I programs.
Sandlappers coach Ray Stackley (Stratford) said the Tarheels present plenty of problems.
“They’ve got some run and spread in,” he said. “The kicker is they are so huge on the offensive line. They’ve got like 21 D1 commitments, and I think we’ve got (a few). Their defensive front and offensive front is huge, and they have three great running backs.”
South Carolina will be led by Goose Creek wide receiver Tramel Terry, who was named Mr. Football last week. The Georgia commitment, along with fellow receivers Akia Booker (Byrnes), Rontavius McClure (Northwestern), Mykal Moody (Conway) and Mike Williams (Lake Marion) provide plenty of speed.
Quarterbacks Keiston Smith (Union County) and Michael Julian (Hilton Head) will present a good mixture of pass and run. Smith holds the state record with 63 total touchdowns in a season.
Defensively, defensive end Gerald Turner (Goose Creek), linebackers Ben Boulware (T.L. Hanna) and Devon Durant (Greenwood), linemen Jaylen Miller (Gaffney) and Jamar Winston (Dutch Fork) and defensive backs Brandon Pinckney (Dorman) and Jadar Johnson (Orangeburg-Wilkinson) concern the Tarheels.
North Carolina coach Nelson Smith (Garner Magnet) said he’s aware of what the Sandlappers are capable of doing.
“The two inside slots are special, and we’re going to have to be able to cover them in the flats with our linebacker,” he said. “One of the quarterbacks, the bigger kid (Keiston Smith), is a real good runner. Then on defense, they’ve got two inside linebackers that can really play. Those are the things that stick out.”
Smith added his team is looking forward to getting on the field and playing the game.
“The kids are starting to feel that game time is coming closer and closer,” he said. “To be able to get out there and go against someone different in a red jersey is exciting for them.”