HOLLY SPRINGS — Thursday night couldn't have gone much better for the Holly Springs football team. Sure, the start was a little rough, but the finish made homecoming even more memorable.
The Golden Hawks rallied for a 34-26 victory over Greater Neuse River 4-A Conference rival Knightdale after trailing 20-0 and 26-6.
Holly Springs shut down Knightdale for the last 33 minutes after giving up 26 points in the first 15.
"I can't say enough about the job our defensive guys and coaches did," Holly Springs coach Jim Hynus said. "The coaches made the right moves to get our guys in the right place and we made plays."
The league win is Holly Springs' first in school history. The Hawks are 2-6 overall and 1-3 in the conference heading into a league-wide open date next Friday.
Holly Springs stuck to its veer- option attack in spite of the deficit, and J.J. Graves and Mark Collins delivered. Graves rushed for 241 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries, and Collins, the Hawks' quarterback, had three rushing TDs and 106 yards rushing.
Collins' third TD, from 1 yard out, pulled Holly Springs even at 26 with 59.6 seconds to go in the third quarter. Nick Hohns' extra point gave the Hawks the lead for good.
Graves ran 28 yards early in the fourth for the final points.
For Knightdale (3-5, 2-2) Greg Jackson ran for 130 yards, and Josh Gorham ran for 101.
Knightdale had big leads early in the second quarter, picking up a touchdown on special teams when Antoine McLean covered a high punt snap that rolled into the end zone and adding another TD after Ira Tripp made a diving interception. Tripp's pick, which was tipped by two Knights defenders, set up a 37-yard TD pass between receiver Aaron Smith and quarterback Ben Boiling.
But the Golden Hawks came back with two option-driven drives to get within a TD by halftime.
HOLLY SPRINGS 34, KNIGHTDALE 26