Triton got a 21-yard field goal from Carter Daughtry with six minutes to go and thwarted host Jacksonville’s last possession with a turnover to take a 37-35 win in the third round of the NCHSAA 3-A football playoffs on Friday night.
The Hawks (8-5) will travel to Northern Nash (13-0) for Triton’s first-ever game in the fourth round on Friday night.
“I’ve always wanted to practice on Thanksgiving morning,” said Hawks coach Ben Penny.
Triton gave the Cardinals (7-5) something they didn’t expect — an air attack. After running for 359 yards without completing a pass in a 35-16 second-round win at Hunt last week, Hawks senior quarterback Jalen Evans threw four touchdowns passes at Jacksonville.
Triton’s first score came on a 10-yard pass play to James Shaw. The Hawks pulled within 14-13 late in the first half on a 26-yard scoring toss to Eligah Holmes.’
A 61-yard touchdown run by J.J. Cowan brought the Hawks within 21-20 in the third quarter. The visitors closed the gap to 28-27 on a 29-yard pass to Holmes.
The first of two fumble recoveries by Ross Stevens led to a 45-yard pass to Cowan for a 34-28 Triton advantage.
After the Cardinals took their last lead at 35-34 early in the fourth quarter, the Hawks positioned themselves for the field goal by Daughtry after a lengthy kickoff return by Camauri McDougald.
Nate McKoy had the strip that led to the win-sealing recovery by Stevens in the final minute.
“Our guys showed a lot of heart,” Penny said. “We came in as a heavy underdog in a hostile environment and fought for 48 minutes. Jalen, once again, carried us on offense. J.J. gave us a spark on the ground all night.
“Just so happy for these guys. They are having fun and believing in themselves.”