RALEIGH — Knightdale has been looking for its next opportunity for a very long time, and because it took a big step on Friday, the Knights are going to get it.
Marquavious Johnson carried 21 times for 144 yards and four touchdowns and passed for 92 more, leading the Knights to a 26-22 victory over Southeast Raleigh in Greater Neuse River 4A action at Baker Stadium.
The win gave the Knights (6-1, 4-0 GNRC) a straight shot at long-time power Garner for first place in the conference next week. Southeast (4-4, 1-3) still has a chance to get a good playoff seed in the Bulldogs first season under Marvin Burke.
This is a tough place to play - Southeast is physical and big, and youve got to show up when you play here, said third-year Knightdale coach Robert Senseney, who guided his team to its first win over Southeast since 2008. We showed a lot of guts and had faith in our kids. We wanted the ball in Johnsons and Harveys hands.
Nathaniel Harvey was the other half of a one-two punch in the Knightdale ground game, picking up 96 yards on 24 carries.
Southeast gained most of its yardage through the air. Cameron Marshman completed nine of 12 passes for 92 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns on the ground, while DeMontae Spence completed seven of 11 for 158 yards and a TD.
We knew their quarterback was going to keep the football, Burke said. They made plays when they were supposed to and we didnt. Johnson is one of the top players in our conference, bar none. Big players step up in big plays. Both teams played hard, but they made the most plays.
The Bulldogs scored on their first drive, going 62 yards in 12 plays with Marshman bulling in from four yards out at 5:50 before Gary Navas conversion attempt was awry.
Knightdale got a break and scored later in the period, two plays after Kendall Miles jumped on a fumble at the Bulldog 10. Johnson went in from nine yards out with 3:24 left in the quarter before Taylor Betts kick was blocked.
This is a big win, Johnson said. Ive never beaten Southeast before. Were hoping we can carry this on to next week. The offensive line was almost perfect tonight. We couldnt have done it without them.
The Bulldogs made it 13-7 with 1:32 left in the first after Sandy Chapmans long kickoff return put them in business at the Knights 28. Marshman scored from a yard out seven plays later with Nava adding the boot.
I thought we were going to pull it out in the end, Marshman said. But Knightdale is a precise team that didnt have as many mishaps as we did. Our mistakes hurt us in the end.
Knightdale tied it with 13 seconds left in the half as Johnson went in from seven yards out to finish a seven-play, 70-yard march. Betts kick was successful.
Johnson made it 20-7 with 9:15 left in the third, sprinting in from 15 yards out with Betts adding the conversion.
The Bulldogs cut it to a point at the 3:42 mark when Spence found Mark Scott behind the defense for a 77-yard touchdown pass, but Nava missed the conversion kick.
But back came Johnson with a scrambling 49-yard scoring run to put the Knights up 26-19 with 3:42 left in the quarter.
Nava got the Bulldogs within four with 7:10 to play on a 37-yard field goal. Southeast went three-and-out on its final possession, and Knightdale ran 13 plays before punting in the closing seconds.
I love this team, Harvey said. Weve got a real close bunch of guys, and our coaches teach us well.