COLUMBIA — Cross made its mark in Berkeley County, winning the Class A Division II state championship with a 38-26 win over McCormick on Friday afternoon at Benedict College.
Junior running back Devontae Shepherd rushed for 166 yards and three touchdowns and junior Dionte Evans added 94 yards rushing and an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown as the Trojans captured the school’s first football state championship.
Cross joins fellow Berkeley County schools Berkeley, Stratford, Goose Creek and Timberland as state championship football teams.
“It’s a great day for Cross High School and for all of these young men who worked so hard all season long,” said Cross coach Shaun Wright, a 1995 graduate of the school. “It’s an amazing feeling. Our guys have been through a lot of adversity all year long and they came out here today and battled for four quarters. That’s what it’s all about.”
Cross took a 20-0 lead on Evans’ kickoff return to open the third quarter, but the contest became a free-for-all the rest of the way. The teams combined for five touchdowns during the final nine minutes of the third period.
McCormick quarterback Jay Weaver, who rushed for 144 yards in the game, scored on runs of 65 and 50 yards in the third quarter while Jalen Adams (112 yards) added a one-yard run.
Cross, however, got a 32-yard touchdown run from Evans and a 65-yard run by Shepherd and carried a 32-20 lead into the final period. The Trojans finished with 338 yards on the ground.
Cross (11-3) came up with a big defensive stop inside its own 15-yard line with 6:12 to play, then proceeded on an 86-yard drive in six plays with Evans’ 29-yard scamper pushing the lead to 38-20 with 1:29 left.
McCormick added a late touchdown on Adams’ 63-yard run with 1:13 remaining in the game.
“We knew they would come back in the second half but our kids have been battle-tested all season and it was just a matter of us playing four quarters,” said Wright. “It’s been a long time coming. Cross High had never even played for a state title before so to come out here on this stage and prove ourselves is a great credit to our kids and our coaching staff.”
Cross lost region games to St. John’s and Baptist Hill, finishing third in Region 6-A during the regular season. The Trojans, however, won when it counted.
“Coaches always say it’s how you play in November that counts the most,” said Wright. “Our football team proved that this year.
(Scott J. Bryan | Index-Journal) Cross coach Shaun Wright×
(Scott J. Bryan | Index-Journal) Cross quarterback Branford Halls looks for an open receiver against McCormick on Friday afternoon during the Class A, Division II championship game at Charles W. Johnson Football Stadium. Cross won 38-26.×
(Scott J. Bryan | Index-Journal) Cross quarterback Branford Halls gains yardage against McCormick on Friday afternoon during the Class A, Division II championship game at Charles W. Johnson Football Stadium. Cross won 38-26.×
(Scott J. Bryan | Index-Journal) Cross running back Diamonte Evans, left, fights for yardage against McCormick's Detravius Houston on Friday afternoon during the Class A, Division II championship game at Charles W. Johnson Football Stadium. Cross won 38-26.×