A defensive touchdown made the difference as Harnett Central’s varsity football team suffered a narrow Homecoming loss to visiting Union Pines to start Tri-County Six 3-A Conference play on Friday.
“For some reason we can’t get over that Union Pines hump,” said Harnett Central coach Matt Migliore. “It’s been three years in a row where it’s either been overtime or down to the last couple of possessions. I’m not going to make excuses for us. We just didn’t capitalize when we had opportunities to capitalize.”
Junior Jaden Bryant completed 14-of-26 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown, with one interception, and ran for 23 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and senior Everett Blake had five receptions for 97 yards to lead the Trojans (4-3, 0-1 TCSC).
“(Bryant’s) seventh game of his career playing quarterback and he’s starting to grow and see things and understand things,” Migliore said. “It’s pretty easy to trust Everett and Jackson Jones. They’ve been around the block for a while and when you put the football up, they’re going to go get it for you.”
Devin Perry ran for 68 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Jackson Jones had seven receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown. Marquez Jones had two receptions for 24 yards. Liam Peebles was a perfect 3-for-3 kicking extra points and kicked a 24-yard field goal.
“I thought Devin ran really hard,” Migliore said. “He did what we asked him to do. He ran north and south and grinded it out.”
Migliore was pleased with several players that had to step up to cover some personnel losses Central suffered for various reasons over the past week.
“I thought they played admirably,” Migliore said. “We started a freshman at right tackle and he didn’t get exposed. Defensively, we had to move some guys this week and we started a couple of JV guys on defense this week because of injuries and things like that. Those guys didn’t get exposed. I thought they played solid games for their first or second varsity outing.”
Senior Tyreek McCoy ran for 237 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries to lead the Vikings (5-2, 1-0).
The Vikings quickly jumped out to a two-score lead. McCoy ran for an early 66-yard touchdown and, after a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, ran for a three-yard touchdown. Sean Blatz made both extra points.
Central got on the board early in the second quarter when, on fourth-and-goal, Bryant scored on a two-yard keeper. The Trojans then tied the game when a Jones interception on the ensuing drive led to Perry scoring on an eight-yard run.
Central took the lead just before the half on a 24-yard Peebles field goal.
On the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, McCoy ran for another 66-yard touchdown, but the extra point was blocked.
Central retook the lead on the ensuing possession, quickly moving down the field and scoring on a 17-yard pass from Bryant to Jones.
Late in the third, the Vikings took the lead back for good when Mick Techeria recovered a fumble and returned it for a touchdown. Blatz made the extra point attempt.
With just under two minutes to play, the Vikings had fourth-and-two at the Central seven-yard-line. Sophomore Hanson Staps, who had just been brought up from the junior varsity team, came up with a sack for a turnover on downs to give the Trojans one last chance.
But the Vikings held Central to a turnover on downs and ran out the clock.
Harnett Central travels to county and conference rival Western Harnett (2-5, 0-1) on Friday.
“It’s a big one for us and I know they probably have it circled on their calendar, as well,” Migliore said. “We’ve got to have a big week of practice. We’re expecting to get several key guys back for us healthy and returning to play.”