PRINCETON — In a game between 0-3 schools, one team was going to definitely walk away from Fred L. Bartholomew Jr. Athletic Complex with their first win of the season.
Friday, that team that wore red and black.
North Johnston, on the backs of Daniel Williams and DeAngelo Tyson, took the lead for the first time in the fourth quarter and defeated Princeton, 28-21. North Johnston was down 21-7 at the half, and scored 21 unanswered points to secure the victory – all in the fourth quarter.
Williams had 13 carries for 155 yards and two touchdowns, while Tyson added 9 carries, 127 yards, and two touchdowns. Tyson’s production was all in the second half, due to being held out of the first half for violating team rules. He was one of three players North Johnston coach Scott Meserve held out of part of the game.
The fourth quarter is where all the magic started to happen for North. Tyson ran for his first TD of the night on the second play of the quarter. After a Princeton punt, Tyson scampered 68 yards on an option sweep for his second touchdown of the night.
The wildest play of the night actually happened on a North Johnston punt when a snap went over punter Tyler Edwards’ head. He chased the ball down to the Panther 19, while being pursued by Princeton’s Dakota Smith and Jake Sullivan. Edwards was able to swerve and dodge five Bulldog tacklers and punt the ball all the way down to the Princeton 21. That was a 61-yard swing, and typical of the fourth quarter for the Panthers.
“Something clicked. They started playing together. The guys believed in each other – the offense, the defense, special teams…the guys we’ve had in the weight room all summer, they started to believe,” Meserve said. “The team in the first half was 0-3. The team in the second half has potential, and we’re gonna run this thing and see how far it goes – one game at a time.”
The Bulldogs tried to drive down the field and make some magic of their own, with 1:30 on the clock. After a 38-yd run by Frazier, the stands were alive. However, a fumbled exchange ended the Bulldog drive with 0:38 left in the game.
“We’re a tale of two teams. We are first half dominant, and something happens at halftime. We run the same plays, but we’re just not executing,” said Princeton coach Derrick Minor. “We just have to learn to win, to learn how to finish. We’re young. Once we figure out how to win a game, we’re gonna be special.”
Princeton sophomore Johnny Frazier held his own against the Panther defense, amassing 159 yards on 22 carries, with two TDs.
“You can’t stop Johnny. When he runs hard, and he’s healthy, he’s unstoppable,” Princeton coach Derrick Minor said. “He has a tremendous potential if we can keep him healthy.”
The first touchdown of the night started with a bad North Johnston snap. Princeton’s Jake Sullivan scooped it up and ran it down to 16-yd line. Frazier punched it three plays later from 13 yards out. The PAT snap was fumbled, and the Bulldogs failed to convert the 2-pt attempt, leaving the score 6-0 Princeton with 2:29 left in the first quarter.
The Panthers got on the scoreboard five plays later, on a bruising 22-yd run by senior tailback Daniel Williams. Williams had six carries for 100 yards in the first quarter.
On the next drive, Princeton quarterback Michael Wooten threw what should have been an interception, dropped by Panther safety Alex Pilkington. The next play was a 28-yd completion from Wooten to senior Jamaal Allen, then Frazier scored on a 13-yd run.