SMITHFIELD — Over the past three years Smithfield-Selma has seen very few breaks go its way on the gridiron. It was to the point where breaks seemed almost meant to go against the Spartans.
Friday night, everything changed for SSS, which made the big plays when it needed to in snapping a 26-game losing streak with a 21-16 victory over Harnett Central in front of a raucous homecoming crowd.
The Spartans took advantage of three Harnett Central turnovers, then made the big plays down the stretch stopping a late Trojan drive to seal its victory.
“Our defense played lights out for us tonight,” said first-year Smithfield-Selma coach David Lawhon. “They made the stops when they had to and offensively, we finished off our drives. Finally got our offense going when we needed to.”
Smithfield-Selma’s first big play came off of a Harnett Central fumble that ended a Trojans’ drive at the SSS 49-yard-line. It took the Spartans four plays to excite the homecoming throng of fans when Chris Samuels found a streaking Quantez Leach on the left sideline for a 51-yard score.
“I’m glad I did my part because this team was all about committing to work every day,” Leach said. “That’s one thing we’ve kept harping on is working every day.”
Central answered with an 80-yard drive midway through the second quarter, scoring on a 14-yard pass from Taylor Smith to Jay McNeill.
The Trojans kept SSS at bay before taking over at their 6-yard-line and drove to their own 44-yard line where with 11 seconds left, Smith who was looking to connect with Dylan Snedeker but instead Aldarius Parker stepped in front of the ball for SSS.
Parker broke to the right sideline and followed a wall of blockers 79 yards to the end zone for a 14-7 halftime lead.
Harnett Central, on its opening drive of the second half, got a 23-yard field goal by Holden Harrell to cut the lead to 14-10.
The Spartans lost a fumble on a punt return, but held Central to a field goal attempt that missed. Stymied by the Trojans on the ensuing possession, SSS punted but the Spartans’ Hisaun Gates stripped the Trojan return man inside of the 10-yard-line.
“I was just trying to make a tackle,” Gates. “But the ball carrier was holding the ball kind of loose, so I was able to knock it loose and give our offense the ball again.”
Two plays later, Samuels found Blake Guy in the corner of the end zone on a 6-yard TD pass for a 21-10 lead with 4:25 to play.
Central cut the lead to 21-16 on a three-play, 66-yard drive culminated on a 17-yard run by McNeill with 2:13 to play. The Trojans went for two but the Spartans’ defensive line held short of the goal.
The onside kick by Central went out of bounds, put the Trojan defense held forcing a punt. Harnett Central moved the ball to the SSS 18-yard-line. But the Spartan defense held, forcing
Jammal Stancil broke up a potential go-ahead touchdown pass in the end zone on third down, then three Spartan defenders broke up a fourth down pass to wrap up the school’s first win since 2010.