A fourth-quarter flurry of offense was not enough for Harnett Central’s varsity football team to rally past visiting West Johnston, as the Wildcats held on to win 24-16 in the season opener for both teams Friday night.
“We hit a deep post for a touchdown to start (the rally) off and it just snowballed after that,” said Harnett Central coach Cory Barnes. “The kids got confident, finally, it what we were doing. And they showed a lot of heart. We had a chance to go down and tie the game and we just didn’t. But, the biggest thing is we’ve got to play four quarters and not just the last seven minutes of the fourth. But, I’m proud of how our guys just fought and fought. We didn’t see a lot of that last year.”
Senior Aiden Taylor completed 20-of-34 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns, with two interceptions, and junior Michael Smith had four receptions for 112 yards and one touchdown to lead the Trojans (0-1).
Delshaun Brown had seven receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown and an interception on defense. Landon Culbreth had two receptions for 20 yards and an interception on defense. Ethyn Muhammad ran for 11 yards on 10 carries had had two receptions for 17 yards. Quan Dixon had five receptions for five yards.
“The biggest thing is we’ve got to be able to run the football and we didn’t do that effectively,” Barnes said. “Credit to West Johnston. They’ve got a defense that fills the box and brings a lot of pressure and we didn’t do well with that up front and we’ve got to get better. And the guys know that. We’ve got to be able to run the football so that we can take some of the pressure off of Aiden and the receivers.”
Senior Dane Trum completed 5-of-14 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown, with two interceptions, and ran for 18 yards and a touchdown on five carries and junior Lucas Fountain ran for 54 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.
West took the early lead when Patrick Schmidt kicked a 27-yard field goal midway through the first quarter.
The Wildcats added two more scores in the second quarter when Fountain ran for a five-yard touchdown, with a bad snap on the extra point attempt, and Trum connected with Kavon Manning for a 39-yard touchdown before throwing to Raphael Hill for the two-point conversion. West led 17-0 at halftime.
Trum scored early in the fourth quarter on a three-yard run, with Schmidt kicking the extra point.
Central responded with Taylor connecting with Smith for a 33-yard touchdown. Brown ran for two.
Later in the quarter, a Brown interception led to a Brown touchdown reception on a 39-yard pass from Taylor, who threw to Joseph Gardner for two to make it a one-score game with 4:29 remaining.
Central’s defense made a stop to get the offense the ball back at its own 14-yard-line with 2:38 remaining. The Trojans were able to move the ball into Wildcat territory, but turned it over on downs with less than a minute remaining and West was able to run out the clock.
Harnett Central travels to Princeton (1-0) and West Johnston is at home against Western Harnett on Friday.