Davidson Day reaches state final in first varsity season

by Cliff Mehrtens

Davidson Day’s football team has one more hurdle to reach the ultimate prize.

The Patriots, playing their first varsity season, will host Fayetteville -Trinity Christian in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Division III championship game at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 11.

Davidson Day (10-1), the home team and top seed, will host the title game at 7:30 p.m. at Johnson C. Smith -University.

“We’ve spent the whole season getting ready for this week,” Davidson Day quarterback Will Grier said. “We feel confident. We’ll try to keep getting better every day, and it all comes down to this.”

Davidson Day’s stellar first season has included a potent offense led by Grier, who’s completed 225 of 358 passes for 3,485 yards and 45 touchdowns. He’s also the Patriots’ leading rusher, with 843 yards and 10 touchdowns on 84 carries.

The deep receiving corps includes Aaron Seward (55 catches, 928 yards, 14 touchdowns), Evan Gates (48 catches, 783 yards), Jordan Young (44 catches, 626 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Jordan Brown (32 catches, 563 yards, eight scores).

The protection from the offensive line has been consistent, coach Chad Grier said, allowing Will Grier (his son) time to throw. The results are impressive, as the Patriots are averaging 43.8 points per game. They’ve scored fewer than 28 points only once, in a loss at Charlotte Latin.

Davidson Day made no secret that a state championship has been the goal since summer workouts began. A lot of teams say that, but few are legitimate contenders. And first-year squads such as Davidson Day don’t often end up in the title game.

But the Patriots haven’t played like a first-year, put-together-haphazardly team. They’ve learned to win on the road, since they can’t play games on their home field (no lights). They’ve learned to win with a small roster – common for private-school teams – and adjust to injuries that often sideline a player who plays both offense and defense.

And after last week’s convincing 31-0 semifinal victory against Fayetteville Christian, it became a bit clearer to coach Chad Grier.

“It was sort of an out-of-body -experience to realize we’re that close,” he said. “The players’ expectations have always been to win a state championship, and their approach has been expecting to win. Either way, at some point, you say `Wow, that’s pretty cool.’”

But it’s not guaranteed.

Yes, Davidson Day crushed Trinity -Christian 62-34 in their regular-season game on Aug. 26. Grier threw for 478 yards and six scores in that contest. But the Patriots had to rally from a 20-19 halftime deficit, and did so with 43 second-half points.

“We still had too may dropped balls last week,” Chad Grier said. “We have a lot of room to get better. We want to play our best game of the season on Nov. 11. You want to peak in the playoffs.”

The Patriots defense might be doing just that. Last week was the first shutout in school history, as Tre Hunt (11 tackles, two sacks), Mike Stevens (two interceptions, fumble recovery) and Ronald Albritton (five tackles, one sack) were standouts.

“We know we can’t assume that because we beat them pretty good, they’ll lay over,” Will Grier said of Trinity Christian. “We need to keep calm, stay in the game mentally and go out with the mind-set that they beat us (in the regular season).”

Chad Grier said he liked the team’s energy level in the semifinal, after a couple weeks of concern.

“Their effort has been great,” he said. “And right now, the championship is right in front of them.”