Western Harnett celebrated its Homecoming by overcoming some early struggles with turnovers to take a 37-14 varsity football win over visiting county and Tri-County Six 3-A Conference rival Harnett Central Friday.
“We’ve got to protect the ball a little bit better,” said Western Harnett coach Blake Culbertson. “I think we turned the ball over maybe six times. But we kept fighting. We talked to them about fighting and playing hard and they just kept grinding and grinding and never gave up.”
Junior Ky’lim Moore ran for 211 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries to lead the Eagles (2-6, 2-1 TCSC).
“He’s a great football player,” Culbertson said. “He runs hard. He’s special with the ball in his hands.”
Kentarius Thompson ran for 90 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Lance McLean ran for 67 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Tamarius Davis ran for a 31-yard touchdown and had three receptions for 14 yards. Tristin Ung completed 7-of-15 passes for 51 yards, with two interceptions. Kahlil McLean had four receptions for 37 yards. Shaunn Brown, Jr. ran for seven yards on five carries. Dillon Smith made a 34-yard field goal and 4-of-5 extra point attempts.
“The O-line did an outstanding job,” Culbertson said. “They did a good job preparing this week. We talked about ‘We want to be more physical. We want to be more physical.’ Our first two conference games we couldn’t really run the football too well and we responded really well tonight on the ground.”
Senior quarterback Hayden Smith completed 15-of-29 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown, with one interception, sophomore Jaden Bryant had three receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown and had a six-yard carry and senior Jaden Meadows had eight receptions for 71 yards and ran for five yards on two carries to lead the Trojans (1-6, 0-2).
Brandon Booker ran for 36 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Tyler Mitchell and Everett Blake each had a two-yard reception. John Rhody had a one-yard run.
Central forced six turnovers in the contest, led by Blake, with two fumble recoveries and an interception. Meadows had an interception and Jackson Jones and Donovan Holmes each recovered a fumble.
Western forced four turnover, led by senior Chris Smith, who recovered two fumbles, including one for a touchdown. Tyrese Jones had an interception and Logan Burns recovered a fumble.
“Chris works hard and that pays off,” Culbertson said. “He just finds a way to be around the football at all times.”
Western’s first four possessions ended with turnovers, but Central was only able to capitalize on a fumble recovered by Jackson Jones midway through the first quarter. That led to Booker scoring on a two-yard run. The conversion attempt failed.
Western’s fourth turnover came on a goal line situation early in the second quarter, with the Eagles fumbling on the Central two-yard-line. But on the next play, Central fumbled and Chris Smith recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. Dillon Smith made the extra point to give Western the lead.
Western added two more scores before the half. McLean scored on a 12-yard run, followed by a Dillon Smith extra point, and Dillon Smith kicked a 34-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter.
Western added three more touchdowns in the third quarter. Thompson scored on a 14-yard run, but the extra point was blocked by Meadows. Chris Smith’s second fumble recovery led to Moore scoring on a 31-yard run, followed by a Dillon Smith extra point. A Tyrese Jones interception led to Davis scoring on another 31-yard run, followed by a Dillon Smith extra point.
The Trojans scored the game’s final touchdown late in the third when Hayden Smith connected with Bryant for a 48-yard score. Brandon Booker ran for the two-point conversion.
Harnett Central hosts Union Pines (3-5, 0-3) and Western Harnett travels to Southern Lee (5-2, 2-0) on Friday.
“We’ve just got to keep working hard,” Culbertson said. “I told the kids after the non-conference schedule ended that it was a new season and we needed to start the new season off right and we did (a 22-14 win at Triton on Oct. 5). We had a little hiccup last week (a 63-3 loss at unbeaten conference leader Lee County) and responded well tonight. Hopefully we’ll come ready to work on Monday and go to Southern Lee and see what we can do.”