Harnett Central’s varsity football team opened All American 3-A/4-A Conference play by picking up its first win of the season, 35-26, at rival Western Harnett on Friday night.
“First one’s always the hardest,” said first-year Harnett Central coach Cory Barnes. “First half, we had two turnovers that they turned into points. But we came out in the second half and Quan (Dixon) played a great second half at quarterback and the kids got after it.
“We let them get behind us once, but we pressured the quarterback. Sometimes we didn’t always tackle like we should, but I thought we were aggressive on defense. First half, we just turned the ball over. And we weren’t very efficient. We didn’t run the ball very well tonight. But those things we can fix. We’ve got to get better as a team at being more disciplined in our assignments and stuff like that to compete in the conference we play in.”
Junior Quan Dixon completed 10-of-26 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns, with two interceptions, and ran for 70 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries to lead the Trojans (1-3, 1-0 AAC).
Delshaun Brown had five receptions for 45 yards and a touchdown. Jaequn Plummer had three receptions for 43 yards and a touchdown. Tay’shawn Moore ran for 39 yards on 13 carries. Amare Boone had two receptions for 38 yards. Ethyn Muhammad ran twice for two yards for Central.
Senior Trent Botts completed 16-of-27 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions, and ran for a touchdown and junior Bryce Browning had four receptions for 82 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Eagles (0-4, 0-1).
Eli Diaz-Avalos ran for 62 yards on 11 carries and had four receptions for 63 yards. Brayden Hopkins completed 6-of-8 passes for 55 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions and ran once for two yards. Cameron Curva had five receptions for 36 yards. Jaylen Baldwin ran for four yards on three carries and had a six-yard reception. Nick Botts had a six-yard reception.
Late in the first quarter, a Curva interception led to Trent Botts running for a one-yard score to put Western on the board first. Jackson Swartz added the extra point.
Early in the second quarter, Central tied the game when Dixon ran for a one-yard score and Isaiah Pearson kicked the extra point.
Western converted another turnover into points late in the second quarter when a Will Wicklin interception led to Hopkins completing a 26-yard touchdown pass to Browning. The extra point was no good. The Eagles led 13-7 at halftime.
Central put 20 unanswered points on the board in a span of six minutes in the third quarter. Dixon completed a seven-yard touchdown to Brown, with Pearson adding the extra point. After a defensive stop, Dixon ran for a four-yard touchdown, with Pearson kicking the extra point. On the ensuing kickoff, Joseph Gardner recovered a fumble and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown, but there was a bad snap on the extra point.
Western cut it back to a one-score game early in the fourth quarter when Botts completed a 42-yard touchdown pass to Browning and Swartz added the extra point.
Central responded with Dixon connecting with Plummer for a 32-yard touchdown and then throwing to Brown for the two-point conversion.
Western got one more late score on an 11-yard Botts-to-Browning pass, with a bad snap on the extra point. But Central was able to run out the clock on the ensuing possession.
Harnett Central is at home against conference opponent Westover (3-1, 0-1) and Western Harnett travels to conference opponent Pine Forest (2-2, 1-0) on Friday night.
“We’ve got to get in the film room and correct our mistakes,” Barnes said. “Figure out where we’ve got to get better to make sure we can have a good running game. We’ve got to eliminate the mistakes we made tonight. Westover’s a good football team and we’re going to play good football teams from here on out, since it’s conference play. We’ve got to be ready and cut out our mistakes and our mental errors.”