Northwestern's Montrece Kennedy's timing couldn't have been better.
Kennedy had three of the Trojans' four interceptions in a 42-28 win over the No. 6 Gaffney Indians on Friday at District Three Stadium. No. 2 Northwestern (10-0, 4-0) all but clinched the Region 3-AAAA championship with the win.
"We knew their quarterback was going to throw it up there," Kennedy said. "It was a total team effort by our defense."
This chapter of one of the state's finest rivalries featured big-time performances on both sides.
Gaffney's Quinshad Davis had 13 receptions for 258 yards.
Northwestern's Justin Worley countered with a touchdown run and five touchdown passes, the last a 9-yard toss to Rontavious McClure with 1:46 remaining.
"I'm proud of our kids," Northwestern coach Jimmy "Moose" Wallace said. "We told them all week it was going to be a war. ... We knew we had to play as good as we could, and our secondary did a good job."
Northwestern scored first after Kennedy intercepted Gaffney's DeEdward Burris on the first play from scrimmage. That set up a 13-yard touchdown pass from Worley to Robert Joseph.
Gaffney (7-3, 3-1) answered with consecutive scoring drives to take a 14-7 lead. Burris scored on a 6-yard touchdown on the first drive, then hit Davis on a 47-yard strike to set up a 4-yard touchdown by C.J. Miller for the second score.
Burris, however, would leave with a leg injury.
The Trojans tied the score at 14 on a 24-yard Brandon Lewis touchdown, which ended the first quarter.
Burris returned with 4:26 in the half. He guided Gaffney on a 56-yard scoring march, which backup quarterback Joey Copeland closed with a 1-yard run with 1:00 left.
Worley responded with a frenetic final-minute drive, which ended when McClure hauled in a 15-yard fade pass in the back corner of the end zone to tie the score with 8.9 seconds left.
"That was big, big, big," Wallace said. "Rontavious, we've been wanting him to go up and get the ball."
Northwestern regained the lead in the third quarter with the help of an interception by Josh Shelton. The Trojans marched 94 yards on 12 plays afterward, and Worley scored on a 7-yard sneak on fourth-and-one for a 28-21 lead.
Gaffney tied the game with 10:16 remaining on a 1-yard run by Copeland, but Northwestern answered with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Worley to B.J. Boyd with 8:57 left.
Northwestern stalled Gaffney's next two drives with the help of Kennedy's second interception on the first drive and a sack by Rod Byers on the second.
Worley and McClure hooked up for the game-clinching score after Gaffney's punt. Kennedy ended the game with his third interception.
"We love it," McClure said of clinching the region title. "It's what we're working for, to get to the ultimate goal."
Worley finished with 427 yards passing. Boyd had 11 catches for 121 yards, and LaThomas Long added 91 yards rushing.
Burris had 246 yards passing for the Indians.
N - Robert Joseph 13 pass from Justin Worley (Sully Foy kick)
G - DeEdward Burris 6 run (Victor Ramirez kick)
G - C.J. Miller 4 run (Ramirez kick)
N - Brandon Lewis 24 pass from Worley (Foy kick)
G - Joey Copeland 1 run (Ramirez kick)
N - Rontavious McClure 15 pass from Worley (Foy kick)
N - Worley 7 run (Foy kick)
G - Copeland 2 run (Ramirez kick)
N - B.J. Boyd 10 pass from Worley (Foy kick)
N - McClure 9 pass from Worley (Foy kick)
RUSHING - Gaffney: Burris 9-38, Miller 11-46, Copeland 7-11. Northwestern: LaThomas Long 14-91, Delvieon McCleod 1-0, Worley 7-(-14)
PASSING - Gaffney: Burris 15-25-4, 246 yards, Copeland 5-7-0, 75 yards. Northwestern: Worley 37-48-1, 427 yards
RECEIVING - Gaffney: Quinshad Davis 13-258, Khris Brown 2-16, Ryan Frock 2-17, Mike Wood 3-30. Northwestern: Boyd 11-112, Joseph 8-79, McClure 5-71, Stewart Hunt 5-62, Lewis 2-43, McCleod 4-43, Long 2-18.
RECORDS: Gaffney 7-3 (3-1), Northwestern 10-0 (4-0)