Even though the Super Bowl is still a big deal in this football crazy county, it doesn’t quite have the appeal of last year’s game.
The main reason is Dannell Ellerbe. The former Richmond Senior standout was a key cog for the Baltimore Ravens’ defense in its march to New Orleans.
The contest will be remembered by most for its power outage after halftime, but for people around Richmond County it will be Ellerbe making two big plays in the game’s final minutes to help ensure his team’s 34-31 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
The first occurred on Frank Gore’s long run on first down at the Baltimore 40. Gore broke free down the left sideline and appeared destined for the end zone to score the go-ahead touchdown for the 49ers. Instead, Gore was met by Ed Reed just outside the 10. Reed wasn’t able to bring Gore down and the San Francisco running back kept rumbling towards the goal line where he was finally finished off by Ellerbe.
Ellerbe wasn’t credited with the tackle, but if it wasn’t for his hustle and sprinting from the line of scrimmage back to meet Gore at the 7, the 49ers may have won the Super Bowl.
Ellerbe’s second moment in the sun came on fourth-and-goal. Once again he wasn’t credited with a tackle, but Ellerbe rushed San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick into making a throw off his back foot towards Michael Crabtree in the corner of the end zone. The pass bounced harmlessly onto the floor of the Superdome.
In Sunday’s Super Bowl there won’t be a Richmond County connection after Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos eliminated Melvin Ingram and the San Diego Chargers in the AFC title game. There will be however, be a handful of players that attended school in North Carolina.
Seattle has three former N.C. State Wolfpack players on their roster, headlined by quarterback Russell Wilson. Joining Wilson are guard J.R. Sweezy and kicker Steven Hauschka.
Denver’s lineup also features three players with North Carolina ties, but all from different schools. North Carolina is represented by defensive tackle Sylvester Williams, center Steve Vallos went to Wake Forest and linebacker Nate Irving attended N.C. State.
After Ellerbe jumped into the spotlight in last year’s Super Bowl, the question is will one of these players pull off the feat Sunday? Wilson would be the logical choice because the Seahawks’ offense flows through him. Perhaps Irving will make a goal-line tackle against Marshawn Lynch.
The best bet would be Hauschka. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him lining up for a game-winning kick for the Seahawks with seconds remaining.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson may be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.