RALEIGH — Athens Drive quarterback Nick DeMuro and wide receiver T.J. Kornegay were at it again -- passing and catching -- before Friday's game against Sanderson.
"As soon as we got out of school, we were down in the gym running routes," Kornegay said. "We're never satisfied."
Their dissatisfaction spilled over into the game, where the senior duo hooked up for three late-game passing touchdowns to help the Jaguars to a 28-16 come-from-behind victory over host Sanderson.
The Jaguars by no means dominated the gritty, power-running Spartans, yet they were able to stay patient and rally after going down 7-0 in the first quarter and trailing 10-7 at halftime.
Shaking off a sluggish start, one made frustrating by Sanderson's stingy defense, the Jaguars (3-0) emerged with 407 total yards of offense. They held firm to their reputation as a team that never met a passing route it didn't like.
DeMuro completed 16 of 32 pass attempts for 277 yards, finding Kornegay (11 receptions for 133 yards) on touchdown passes of 9, 41 and 18 yards in the fourth quarter.
With 11:14 remaining in the game, after the Jaguars had drove the length of the field in the last three minutes of the third quarter, DeMuro hit Kornegay on a fade route at the back of the right side of the end zone. He lofted the pass over the defender's head where only Kornegay could reach.
They connected again on a 41-yard slant across the middle as Kornegay beat three defenders down field.
Kornegay, who entered the game leading all Triangle public school receivers, said the connection between DeMuro and himself comes from three years of passing and catching.
On Friday, all three touchdown passes came on last-minute calls made at the line of scrimmage.
"It's the eyes," Kornegay said. "We just look at each other. That's the connection."
Sanderson, which dropped its first game of the season, did a tremendous job of deflecting passes, denying receivers and rushing early. They sacked the quarterback, recovered a fumble and forced an interception. Defensive coordinator Tony Lewis' unit knocked DeMuro to the ground and momentarily stumped the area's leading passer.
"They're a really good blitzing team," DeMuro said. "It took me awhile to find out exactly where the holes were in the zone. Once I figured that out, we were able to move the ball a lot better."
Athens Drive coach Jeff Smouse said his team has now learned how to win. It was the second straight game where the Jags have won after being down at half.
He said the defense is starting to come into its own, too.
Offensively, Sanderson started this game with a head of steam, jumping to a first-quarter lead on a 13-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jeff Massey to tight end Perry Simmons.
A field goal late in the second quarter by kicker Ben Martin put the Spartans ahead 10-0, but they surrendered a touchdown on the next series and started to unravel.
"We came out pretty hard," Sanderson senior defensive back Delmar Taylor said. "We didn't sustain it like we're supposed to. ... I don't think we broke down, we didn't go as hard as we could."
Staff writer Edward G. Robinson III can be reached at 829-4781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.