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Gentry-led N.C. blasts S.C. stars 55-24 as Landrum makes pick, ACR duo shines


UNC-bound 6-2 receiver Jordyn Adams strides by S.C. DB Ty’Quan Porter for a 10-yard gain. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

A.C. Reynolds’ star duo of guard Jake Setterlind and top tackler Frank Torres also made many outstanding plays for N.C. The Tar Heels, led by legendary Murphy head coach David Gentry, scored a game-record 55 points. The 81st Shrine Bowl was in Wofford’s Gibbs Stadium.

Setterlind (6-6, 290), a powerful and mobile blocker, helped N.C. have a decisive edge in the trenches. N.C out-gained S.C. 478-366 yards overall, and 303-79 on the ground. Setterlind and nimble, ball-hawking three-way threat Landrum both made N.C. Preps’ all-state team days ago.

Landrum (5-9, 175) led everyone with six solo tackles — four in the first half. “I knew that I am good enough to play” and keep up with S.C. all-star receivers, and next “anybody” else he will face in college, Landrum said. He made a WNC-record 11 interceptions as a junior, returning three of them for scores.


N.C.’s Holton Ahlers (19) and Devin Carter (89) do a leaping body tap, to celebrate Ahler’s early 11-yard TD run. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Landrum’s interception was his game highlight. He anticipated the pass in his zone, after quarterback Dakereon Joyner (S.C.’s Mr. Football for ’17) looked his way while rolling far to his left. “I saw him scramble,” Landrum said. “I went towards the ball. I made a play on the ball.”

Landrum snatched it at the N.C. 23-yard line, by the left yard markers. He raced 32 yards, cutting left and crossing the center of the field to the S.C. 45 with 2:48 before halftime.

Landrum was an original Shrine Bowl selection; Murphy quarterback Joey Curry was the other one from WNC. The ACR duo and Cherokee QB Tye Mintz were among 10 roster substitutions due to injuries. Mintz (6-0, 205) capped a triumphant week, with the Shrine Bowl win. One week earlier he led Cherokee to the 1A state title. Murphy won the larger-school 1AA class a year ago, then reached semis this time. Reynolds was 3AA state runner-up in 2017.

Gentry, an Edneyville native, coached green-clad N.C. “Tar Heels” past red S.C. “Sandlappers.” This was N.C.’s third straight win, for the first time since 1949-51. N.C. led throughout, rolled up a Murphy-like dominating margin, and surpassed 50 points for the second time in three tries. N.C. won 54-39 in ’15, in the series’ biggest shootout. The 31-point winning margin was a point behind the decade’s largest in S.C.’s 42-10 win in 2010. Biggest blowouts by each side were 66-14 by S.C. in 2000 and 47-7 for N.C. in 1950. S.C. leads the series by 44-33-4.

Winning so decisively felt “great!,” Coach Gentry and several players each said. Gentry was quite pleased with how his team kept rolling most of the way.

Gentry lit a fire throughout the intense week of practice. “He told us to ‘Kick their butts! We’re not pussy-footing around!,” Setterlind said, with a grin after the “huge” triumph for the entire state. He said the squad “practiced hard, and played hard.” Torres (6-3, 225) said players relaxed to simply “go for it” as usual.

Landrum said Gentry “wanted us to go out and give it all we had, and play for our people back home, for our state and for the shriners” and child medical patients.

The all-star game is a premier audition for D-1 schools. WNC Shrine Bowlers are seeking and/or sorting through college offers. Several winning players said they felt they had much to prove against South Carolinians. Game defensive MVP Dax Hollifield III (6-2, 236), Shelby middle linebacker, said South Carolina prospects have overshadowed N.C. ones in college recruiting.

Not Hollifield. He told The Tribune after the Shrine Bowl he narrowed his choice to Stanford (he visits Jan. 12), Virginia Tech and UNC. Setterlind also has major offers brewing. He said he is “talking with Clemson” and both Carolinas. Many prized recruits are expected to formally declare any day, in national early signing Dec. 20-22.

Playing further for “Tar Heels” has a good ring for Landrum’s ears. He eyes UNC, and a sports marketing degree. His GPA is 3.4. He called it an immense “honor” to get chosen (moreso as one of two initially from WNC), and to play steadily in the secondary. Mintz subbed for Landrum at safety for a play or two. Landrum did not play Saturday as a receiver — as with HHS, when gaining a WNC-record 4,558 career receiving yards. He was back for one Shrine Bowl punt.


The all-star game is a premier audition for D-1 schools. WNC Shrine Bowlers are seeking and/or sorting through college offers. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Landrum defended on the left side in the zone, and in some man-to-man coverage. Perhaps avoiding him, S.C. mostly went elsewhere to swift leading receiver Bryce Thompson (5-10, 180). He was S.C.’s overall MVP.

Thompson scored on a 40-yard play on a pass from Wake Forest commit Samuel Hartman (6-1, 182), S.C.’s offensive MVP. Hartman later hit Derion Kendrick for a 52-yard TD pass play, threw for a game-best 218 yards, and for two scores. S.C. had more (287-175 ) aerial yardage, in playing catch up.

Clemson receiving commit Kendrick had 105 total yards running and receiving, and played some at QB. He quarterbacked South Pointe to three consecutive S.C. state titles.

Thompson’s longest gain was a 64-yarder down the left side, from fellow Gamecock commit Joyner. That set up Joyner’s five-yard keeper, for the first S.C. TD.

N.C. broke open a close 14-12 game with two quick scores by its two Browns. First was West Mecklenburg receiver Dyami Brown’s dynamic 92-yard kickoff return. Then unbeaten 2AA state champ Hibriten’s star DB Miles Simon returned an INT 40 yards, to the one. That set up a TD run by QB Stephon Brown (6-5, 220), of Kernersville Glenn. N.C. thus led 28-12, early into the second quarter.

Tar Heels’ offensive MVP Ricky Person Jr. scored three of N.C.’s four second-half TDs. He galloped 52 yards on the half’s second play for a 35-12 lead, and ran 72 yards to paydirt on the game’s final play to spark a celebratory pile-up. Person (6-2, 210) ran for over half (180 of 303) of N.C. rushing yards. He had 23 yards and a TD receiving, and threw a 14-yard halfback pass. The Wake Forest Heritage star has declared for N.C. State.

Hollifield and Landrum each led N.C. with eight overall tackles. Hollifield and Kendrick are among six prep finalists nationally for the U.S. Army Player of the Year Award of Jan. 5. Hollifield is a finalist for Army’s Felix “Doc” Blanchard Award for scholarly football stars. Hollifield sparked the Golden Lions to three state titles in a row, through ’16.


Tykel Landrum (7) of HHS and ACR’s Frank Torres (58) join interceptor Miles Simon (22) in charging downfield, on Simon’s pivotal 40-yard return. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

The overall Shrine Bowl MVP was N.C.’s QB for most of the game — lefty QB Holton Ahlers, of Greenville (NC) Conley. The huge (6-4, 235) East Carolina commit commit threw two TD passes — starting with a 20-yarder to Clayton’s Devin Carter (6-4, 205) in the end zone on N.C.’s first drive, and later 14 yards to Person. Ahlers ran 11 yards to score on the second N.C. drive.

The sole “pick six” was a 36-yarder, by Braylan Peterson (5-11, 160) off of Ahlers. That lessened the gap to 11, at 35-24. But N.C. tacked on three straight TDs including Murphy QB Curry’s four-yard keeper with 5:17 left. Curry was the holder for kicks.

S.C. defensive MVP Khalid Jones of Duncan Byrnes, near Spartanburg, made two sacks and tied for most (nine) overall tackles. Jones (6-1, 219) is heading to Northwestern, along with Asheville sacker Andrew Leota (6-4, 220) who next month will enroll early.

Clemson counts on quick S.C. LB Jakes Venables (6-1, 225); his father is Tiger DC Brent Venables. Tar Heel faithful look to WR Jordyn Adams (6-2, 180) of Cary Green Hope, whose father also coaches at the school to which he verbally committed.

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