CLAYTON – Clayton shrugged off a track meet of a first quarter and a long rain delay between the third and fourth, holding on to beat Southeast Raleigh 32-22 in Greater Neuse River 4A action Friday night.
It was the Comets’ first win over Southeast since a 9-7 victory in 2005. The result improved the Comets to 4-3, 2-1 in conference play, while the Bulldogs fell to 4-3 and 1-2.
Jace Brown had 98 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries to lead the Clayton attack, while Cedric Harris added 81 yards and a TD on 12 carries and Tam Barbour 55 yards and a score on 18.
“We’ve always had close games with them, and it seems like every time we play them it rains,” said Comets coach Gary Fowler. “I thought the first quarter might have been the best quarter our offense has played all year. We just gave up a long pass and had a breakdown in the kicking game.
“But the offense kept us in this game, and give a lot of credit for that to the offensive line.”
Cameron Marshman and DeMontae Spence each threw touchdown passes for Southeast.
“We have mutual respect with Clayton,” Southeast coach Marvin Burke said. “Every time we play them it’s a battle. When you play Clayton it’s tough. Coach Fowler is a class act and we always root each other on, and you can always learn from a veteran coach like him.
“We came out flat defensively. Take away the first quarter and it’s a different ball game. But we didn’t play well defensively after the first three possessions.”
The Comets led 24-14 at half after most of the scoring came in the first quarter.
Southeast struck first with 7:18 left in the first, as Marshman hit Dante Jones on the left side of the end zone from 22 yards out to complete a 10-play, 80-yard drive. Gary Nava added the boot.
The Comets came back to tie at 5:59 when Harris burst up the middle for a 45-yard scoring run and Nick Christensen added the conversion.
“I felt like we ran well, but the offensive line did that,” Harris said. “If our brothers up there don’t block, we can’t run the ball anywhere.”
That celebration was short-lived, as Sandy Chapman returned the kickoff 95 yards to pay dirt and Nava converted.
But the rest of the half was all Clayton.
Barbour evened things on a 26-yard run followed by Christensen’s kick at 4:35, with a 43-yard pass from Sam May to Eric Hoy setting up the play.
And Clayton went ahead with 1:45 left in the period when Brown went in from six yards out and Christensen converted. Ced Rouse’s interception set up that five-play, 32-yard drive.
Christensen completed the first-half scoring 4:32 before halftime on a 43-yard field goal.
Officials sent the teams off the field during a hard rain at the end of a scoreless third quarter, with the delay lasting about 40 minutes.
On the first play after the delay Brown burst up the middle for 35 yards, setting up Harris’ one-yard scoring run three plays later. Kevin Peppers turned a botched snap into a two-point conversion run and the Comets led 32-14 with 10:18 to play.
“I got a really good block from Tamerick Barbour on that play,” Brown said. “I saw the hole and I broke. It wasn’t about me. That play was about the offensive line.”
Southeast got its final score on a 37-yard pass from Spence to Ezra Jeffers with 4:08 remaining followed by Spence’s conversion toss to Jones, but the Comets covered the onside kick and were able to run out the clock.