CARY — Although the stakes for Friday night’s football game between Panther Creek and visiting Fuquay-Varina may not have been as high as in recent seasons, Bengal junior quarterback Tyler Williams knew it was still a critical matchup between two young teams.
Both the Bengals and Catamounts, who have been in the thick of the Tri-9 conference championship race the past several years, entered the game 1-2 in the conference and with overall losing records. With Middle Creek undefeated in the Tri-9, catching the Mustangs would be a tall order this season.
Still, as Williams pointed out, the rest of the conference is wide open. Williams also pointed the way to a Bengal victory, rushing for 132 yards and two touchdowns to lead Fuquay-Varina past Panther Creek 21-13.
His second touchdown, a one-yard run, came with 10:18 left in the fourth quarter and the Bengals (3-3, 2-2) nursing a one-point lead.
Fuquay, which led 14-10 at the half, had held Panther Creek to a 29-yard Phillip Stone field goal after the Catamounts drove 64 yards in 14 plays to trim the Bengal advantage to 14-13 in the third period.
Fuquay converted three clutch third downs on its last scoring drive, including two by Williams and one by Kyle Smith. The Bengals held the ball six minutes and went 77 yards for the decisive score.
“I’m just really pleased with how the team has responded the last two weeks,” said Bengals head coach Ryan Habich, whose team rushed for 295 yards against Panther Creek. “We’re playing better on defense, concentrating on ball security and are clicking in the running game. That last drive was huge to take it down and score, and it was a great read by Tyler on the touchdown play.”
Williams, who also took F-V’s first play from scrimmage 56 yards untouched for a touchdown, was thrilled with Friday’s outcome.
“This win is a big step to showing that we are moving in the right direction,” Williams said. “These last two weeks we’ve come together as a team instead of playing as individuals.”
Williams credited the Bengal offensive line for opening holes for him, Damarus Williams, Demetrius Rudolph (touchdown) and Quincy Mangum.
Although the Catamounts (1-5, 1-3) never led, they always seemed on the verge of overtaking the Bengals if one big play went their way.
A holding penalty nullified a Dorrel McClain touchdown run with 6:36 left in the game, and F-V stopped a potential TD pass on fourth down.
“I’m proud of the guys, every week we are getting better,” Panther Creek head coach Sean Crocker said. “We got the ball all the way down the field, we just need to learn how to finish.”
McClain (135 yards rushing) scored the Catamounts lone touchdown on a 13-yard run, while David Mayaka added 94 yards on the ground for Panther Creek.
The Catamounts travel to Middle Creek next, while F-V hosts Green Hope.