Morris, Rankin Capture State Title

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – North Carolina verbal commitments Darien Rankin and Romar Morris entered their senior season with one simple goal: bring home a state championship. Mission accomplished.

Rankin blocked a field goal and Morris rushed for a game-high 97 yards, in Salisbury's 30-0 win over Northeastern in the NCHSAA 2-AA Championship game on Saturday. Morris was named the game's Most Valuable Player.

"This season has been great and wonderful," Morris said. "It's been the best season ever. We've been talking about this being our last game and leaving everything on the field."

After taking an early 14-0 lead, Northeastern drove deep into Salisbury territory and was on the verge of cutting into the Hornets' lead. Following an unsuccessful third down, the Eagles set up for a 24-yard field goal. The kick was blocked by Rankin, ending all hope of a Northeastern comeback.

"He told me to go and I thought I could get it," said Rankin, who had 10 tackles. "The man on the edge looked like he was going to back up so I just went forward. I just put my hands up and I hit it."

Behind Morris, the Hornets' ground attack rushed for 230 yards on 41 attempts. Morris had 89 yards in the second half, including an eight-yard touchdown.

Morris believes the team's early-season schedule helped Salisbury achieve its goals.

"At the beginning of the season we played some tough competition," he explained. "We were a young team and weren't very experienced. Over the course of the season, we stepped it up and everyone played their roles."

With their high school careers over, Rankin and Morris said they're already thinking about playing together in Chapel Hill.

"It's very important to have Darien with me at Carolina," Morris said. "He's a great friend and we've been friends for a long time. Me and him have a great bond together."

Added Rankin: "It's a great honor to go to college with Romar. I've had him for four plus years in high school and now, staying with him, it's just an honor."

After the win, they spoke to UNC assistant coach Troy Douglas, who attended the game.

"It felt great," said Morris of seeing Douglas. "He told me he was coming and it was exciting. That's my coach next year."

Neither player has taken their official visit to UNC yet but they are in the process of working on dates with the coaching staff. Morris will continue to run track in the spring.

"I'm going to lift even harder," said Morris. "I know that at Carolina they lift everyday and lift hard. There are some strong guys up there. I'm going to do my best to work hard and get bigger and stronger."

Both plan to enroll in the summer. Morris wants to make an immediate impact.

"I think I can help the team when I get there," he explained. "I have great speed and they said they like my speed. Me, being like a slot receiver, I can get on a linebacker or corner and then I can just take off on them."

Salisbury (13-3) will lose 13 seniors to graduation. Head coach Joe Pinyan said he knows two that will be irreplaceable.

"I'm happy for the University of North Carolina, because I've got some good friends up there and I'm glad they're getting good players," the coach said. "Those guys have been super for us. Their abilities are immeasurable. We're going to miss them sorely. "

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