Title game in regular season finale? Doesn’t happen very often. That’s why we should enjoy Friday’s Crest at Kings Mountain matchup

By Richard Walker

When Crest visits Kings Mountain Friday night at John Gamble Stadium, unbeaten records and the Big South 3A Conference high school football title will be at stake.

It’s the kind of a regular season finale high school football fans crave.

It also doesn’t happen very often, particularly when both teams also are unbeaten overall and in conference play.

Crest’s Tre Harbison (21) shined the last time there was a Cleveland County matchup of unbeaten teams in the regular season finale with a league title on the line.

In Cleveland County’s rich football history, it’s only the second time two county schools have clashed against one another with unbeaten overall and league records in the regular season finale – and it’s only the fourth time a county school has ever been involved in such a regular season finale.

In conferences involving Cleveland, Gaston and Lincoln counties in the last 20 years, it’s only the 11th time it’s happened and only the third matching teams with unbeaten overall and league records in a regular season finale.

Here’s a look at Cleveland County’s three previous regular season finales involving unbeaten teams:

1966: East Rutherford, with first-year head coach Steve Curtis, won 28-7 at Shelby behind Shrine Bowl running back Gary Dotson and eventual NFL running back Lewis Jolley. The Cavaliers lost the next week in the first round of the Western N.C. Activities Association playoffs while Shelby finished 9-1 overall.

1977: Shelby, in the first year under head coach Jim Taylor, rolled up 358 yards total offense led by Anthony Webber’s 189 yards rushing and three touchdowns in a 42-7 win at South Point. The Golden Lions lost the next week in the first round of the N.C. 3A playoffs while South Point finished 9-1 overall.

2015: Crest outlasted Shelby 40-33 in an unexpected offensive shootout in a matchup between unbeaten teams that would both eventually win their state titles. Crest was led by Tre Harbison’s 152 yards and four touchdowns and Willie Green II’s 139 yards passing and one touchdown while Shelby countered with Darquez Lee’s 277 yards passing and four touchdowns. Crest also had future NCAA Division I defensive standouts Justin Foster (Clemson), Aaron Ramseur (East Carolina) and Chris Willis (Appalachian State and East Carolina) and Shelby had future Virginia Tech linebacker Dax Hollifield.

Crest also beat Shelby 21-13 the previous year in a regular season matchup of league unbeatens and future state champions as Crest finished 16-0 overall and Shelby 14-2.

The Chargers’ first two games in matchups of league unbeatens resulted in defeats in 2011 and 2012 to South Point.

In 2011, South Point won 42-21 over visiting Crest to take the Big South 3A Conference title. But South Point was upset the following week in the first round by Weddington while Crest would advance to the state championship game.

In 2012, South Point won again 42-24 in the regular season finale at Crest, then eliminated Crest two weeks later as Tyler Bray set a then-Gaston County record for single-game rushing of 381 yards.

Kings Mountain has never played in a regular season finale that was, in essence, a conference title game.

Kings Mountain has never played in a regular season finale between unbeaten teams for a league title. But in 1956, the school won a conference championship game one week after the regular season to break a tie at the top of the league standings with future Duke quarterback George Harris leading the way for the Mountaineers.

But the Mountaineers did play in a conference championship game in 1956 to determine the Southwestern Conference champion after Kings Mountain and Forest City had tied 7-all in the regular season.

It the playoff game played at Shelby’s old Sumter Street Stadium, future Duke quarterback George Harris scored a touchdown as Kings Mountain won 19-13 over Forest City. The following week, Valdese beat Kings Mountain 14-6 at Lenoir-Rhyne for the Western Conference’s Western N.C. Activities Association championship that the Mountaineers had won the previous year.