BENSON — It took them over a quarter to get warmed up, but Justin Carroll and his West Johnston teammates put on an aerial extravaganza Friday night against Smithfield-Selma.
Carroll completed 13 of 18 passes for 311 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another, leading the Wildcats to a 39-7 romp over the Spartans in the Greater Neuse River 4A opener for both teams.
The Wildcats improved to 2-2 on the season while SSS (0-5) suffered its 24th straight loss.
Jonathan Stevens caught four passes for 146 yards and a touchdown for the Wildcats, who had four players catch touchdown passes. Carvon Harrington carried 13 times for 62 yards and a score, and caught two passes for 17 yards.
“We had a couple of turnovers in the first quarter, but we were able to get things straight,” Wildcats coach Randy Ragland said. “We weren’t expecting them to play the defense they were in, so we had to make some adjustments.”
“We had had a bye week and had a long time to prepare for them. We started clicking there in the second quarter. We were able to hit them pretty quick. We’re almost there. Defense played a lot better tonight. Offensively we’re still not quite where I want us to be, but we’re getting closer.”
Hassan Yates led SSS with 48 yards on nine carries, while Carlos Alexander picked up 45 on 10.
“We came out of the gates and caused a turnover on the first drive, but they scored on the first play of the next possession,” said first-year SSS coach David Lawhon. “We came back and scored again before it got away from us.”
“But we’re getting closer. We’re getting better. We’ve just got to learn how to play for 48 minutes, but the guys played hard.”
West led 33-7 at halftime, courtesy of a 26-point second quarter.
“The offensive line was blocking well and the receivers were running good routes,” Carroll said. “We had a good week of practice and everything seemed to click tonight. Carvon is running hard. I’m feeling good. I’ve had some good luck and hopefully it stays that way.”
The Wildcats came up with a lightning strike early, as Carroll found Stevens for a short pass and long sprint down the right sideline for a 74-yard touchdown. Alex Mattes added the kick with 8:04 left in the first.
“Justin was throwing the ball great,” Stevens said. “What can I say? He’s Justin. The offense was pretty quick and crisp. It was nice. It was great to get our first conference win.”
SSS got a break on the Wildcats’ next possession, recovering a fumble at the West 25 yard line. Two plays later, Chris Samuels found Quantez Leach in the left corner from 24 yards out and Chris Parker’s kick tied the score with 11:54 left in the half.
But the rest of the half was all Wildcats. Harrington went in from three yards out at 9:13 to end a nine-play, 42-yard march with Mattes adding the kick.
Carroll sprinted around left end from nine yards out with 4:30 left in the half to end an eight-play, 68-yard drive and make it 20-7.
Carroll found Cameron Williams from 32 yards out at 3:11, and connected with Warren Frey for a 60-yard bomb at 1:08 to make it 33-7.
The Wildcats made it 39-7 with 4:02 left in the third on an 11-yard pass from Carroll to Xavier Carter.
“We made a lot of mental mistakes,” Yates said. “That’s what’s killing us. We’re prepared physically, but we’ve got to cut down on those big plays we’re giving up. It’s tough for the guys who are going both ways, but when you’ve got a job to do you just have to get it done.”