RALEIGH — Four games into this year’s schedule, Fuquay-Varina coach Ryan Habich was ready for a different season. So he proposed one for his team, asking them to consider the last six games on the Bengals’ slate as its own separate season.
His players haven’t just responded, they’ve about-faced.
Fuquay-Varina reeled off its fourth straight win Friday with a 31-27 victory at Athens Drive. The Bengals are now third in the Tri-9 Conference, and perhaps more importantly to Habich, 4-0 since beginning their “new season.”
Fuquay has turned around its year on the defensive side of the ball. After allowing 37 or more points in three of its first four games, the team held its fourth straight team to less than 30. The host Jaguars posted 13 of those points in the game’s final four minutes to make it Fuquay’s third straight win by eight or fewer points.
“The kids have accepted that challenge,” Habich said of the Bengals’ new season. “We simplified some things both offensively and defensively. The kids are playing well. They keep it close, but they know how to win.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Fuquay-Varina (5-3, 4-2) went ahead 3-0 on a 31-yard field goal by Will Mann. Later in the quarter, the Bengals added a 52-yard touchdown run from Tyler Williams. Athens Drive cut the lead to 10-7 with a three-yard run by Jamie Barnes just 11.7 seconds before halftime.
Fuquay-Varina pulled ahead by 10 when Williams ran his second 52-yard touchdown of the night – this time on a 4th-and-1 – in the third quarter.
With 25 seconds left in the third, Jason West’s 21-yard touchdown strike to Barnes pulled the Jaguars to within a possession.
A 7-yard sweep by Fuquay’s Quincy Mangum and a 2-yard plunge by fullback Damarus Williams put the Bengals up 31-14 with 3:55 to go. The Bengals took advantage of an interception by Demetrius Randolph and a successful onsides kick to build their lead.
But Athens Drive wasn’t going to make things easy.
The Jaguars used 40 seconds to score on a 27-yard pass from West to Barnes, recovered an onsides kick, then scored again on a 6-yard pass from West to Steven Parrish with 2:41 remaining. A blocked extra point kept the score 31-27 in Fuquay’s favor.
A second onsides kick for Athens Drive was recovered by Fuquay, and the Bengals ran out the clock to their fifth win of the season.
Athens Drive (4-4, 3-2) is still in search of another win so it can feel confident it’s locked up a playoff bid. But the Jags finish the year with Middle Creek, Lee County and Cary.
“We’re at a point where we can get it done, we’ve just got to overcome a ton of mistakes,” said Athens coach Chris Martin.
Blake: 919-460-2606 or twitter.com/JMBpreps