Harnett Central’s varsity football team edged visiting Tri-County Six 3-A Conference and Harnett County rival Western Harnett 25-24 on its Homecoming to pick up its first win of the season Friday night.
“It kind of seems like it’s our M.O. and I don’t know how to shake that, that we make life a whole lot harder on ourselves than it has to be,” said Harnett Central coach Matt Migliore. “I think it’s now three out of our four games that we kind of controlled the ball on both sides of the ball and couldn’t capitalize and gave them opportunities to capitalize. Things that we can we can eliminate and things that shouldn’t be happening. But, I was really proud of the way that we came out in the second half.”
Western Harnett coach Blake Culbertson said the Eagles’ offense struggled in the second half.
“We ran into some penalties, too, whenever we’d get a big play,” Culbertson said. “Something just happened where we got stagnant on offense. This is the third week in a row where we’ve led at halftime and we just can’t close games out.”
Senior De’Andre McAllister completed 7-of-12 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown. He ran for 32 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. Senior Devin Perry ran for 141 yards on 24 carries and caught two passes for 17 yards for the Trojans (1-3, 1-1 TCSC).
“I’m happy for Devin,” Migliore said. “The first two games it took him a while to get going and these last two games he’s been rolling for him. I’m really proud of the way Devin played and De’andre did a really good job reading things and keeping the ball in his hands. And I thought Quez Jones was phenomenal tonight.”
Quez Jones ran for 81 yards and a touchdown on seven carries and caught two passes for 40 yards. Chris Mills had two receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown. Homecoming king Khalil Cameron had a 39-yard reception.
Sophomore Isaiah Pearson made one extra point. It was the lone successful conversion after a touchdown for either side and represented the difference on the scoreboard.
Elijah Bass ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries and had four receptions for three yards to lead the Eagles (0-4, 0-2).
“He ran very hard,” Culbertson said.
Misha’el Vines had two receptions for 60 yards. Trent Botts completed a 58-yard pass and ran for one yard. Tristin Ung was 12-of-15 passing for 41 yards and ran for 15 yards and a touchdown on six carries. Carl Collins had three receptions for 23 yards. Sebastian Tyson ran for 10 yards on four carries and had a four-yard reception. Ian Bristow had two receptions for nine yards.
Central fumbled on its first play from scrimmage and Cody McCracken recovered it for Western. That led to Bass scoring on a two-yard run.
Central answered with McAllister scoring on a five-yard run to tie the game.
On Western’s ensuing drive, a double pass play from Ung to Botts to Vines for a 58-yard gain led to Bass scoring again on a three-yard run. Western held a 12-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Central scored again on a 16-yard pass from McAllister to Mills. Pearson kicked the extra point to give the Trojans their first lead of the game at 13-12.
Western answered on the following drive when, on fourth-and-goal, Ung scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak to put the Eagles back in front.
Central had a chance to answer late in the second quarter, driving into the red zone with just under 1:00 left in the first half. But the drive ended with a fumble, recovered by Western’s Mason Talbert and the Eagles held on to their 18-13 lead at halftime.
Western did not score an offensive touchdown in the second half.
“They started blitzing us a little bit more and we didn’t do a very good job of picking up the blitzes,” Culbertson said.
“(Ung) is a good quarterback and he makes plays,” Migliore said. “We talked about that all week, how we had to avoid him making those plays. They got a couple on us and we got a couple of penalties on other times. But for whatever reason, something clicked for us in the second half. We didn’t make a lot of defensive adjustments. We made a couple of offensive adjustments. But, defensively, we didn’t make a lot of adjustments. It was just something clicked.”
Central reclaimed the lead late in the third when Jones broke free for a 51-yard touchdown run. The Trojans led 19-18 at the end of the third quarter.
Early in the fourth, Central lined up to attempt a 27-yard field goal, but it was blocked. Myles Washam picked it up for the Eagles and returned it 84 yards for a touchdown to put Western back in front, 24-19.
Midway through the fourth, Central took the lead again on a one-yard touchdown run from McAllister.
On the ensuing kickoff, Pearson’s kick looked as if it would either roll out of bounds or into the endzone for a touchback, but came to a stop at the Eagles’ five-yard-line, forcing Western to pick it up and attempt a return. Mills chased the return man down and tackled him at the nine-yard-line to ensure Western had a long field ahead.
“Isaiah being a sophomore, I’m excited to have him for two more years,” Migliore said. “He kind of went through some growing pains the first couple of weeks. I think it was nerves more than anything, him being a sophomore and his first varsity experience. But, having a kicker in high school that can put it in the end zone is a major weapon.”
Central’s defense held on the following possession, forcing a punt with 5:04 remaining in the game. Despite Western having all three of its timeouts left, Central’s offense picked up several key first downs that allowed the Trojans to run out the clock.
Harnett Central plays at conference opponent Lee County (3-0, 1-0) and Western Harnett is at home against another conference and county rival, Triton (1-2, 1-0), on Friday night.