CLAYTON — Cleveland converted four key fourth downs and held South Johnston to seven second-half points for a 47-21 Eastern Carolina 3A Conference victory Friday.
The Rams (9-1, 5-1) can still claim a share of the conference title if South Johnston (8-2, 4-1) beats Triton (10-0, 5-0) next week, creating a three-way tie for the league lead.
The kids did a good job of executing the offense at important times, said Cleveland coach Marc Morris. Anytime you get a win over a South Johnston team, youve accomplished something.
The Rams, up 14-7 after a 19-yard TD run by Aaron Farmer and a 11-yard TD run by Isaac Martin, held South on fourth down early in the second quarter at the Ram 33. Three plays later, Farmer converted a fourth-and-2 at the South 39-yard-line. That set up a 16-yard TD connection between Donqua Williams and Farmer for a 21-7 lead.
It seemed like they converted 15 of them, South coach Shane Dular said of Clevelands proficiency on fourth down. I felt like we played about as well as we can on defense. The guys did everything we asked, couldnt be more proud of them.
Farmer, a sophomore, finished with 56 yards rushing and was 14-of-22 for 209 yards and three TDs. Williams had 146 yards receiving and two TD catches.
South Johnston, however, answered quickly with a 29-yard TD run by Clarence Crawford to get back within 21-14 with 6:06 to play in the half. South held on fourth down to stop Clevelands next drive, but the Ram defense held right back. The Rams proceeded to put together a 76-yard, 10-play drive capped by a 17-yard TD catch by Alex Raines for a 28-14 halftime lead.
South Johnston couldnt get back within two scores the rest of the night.
Cleveland kept its offensive production rolling even when it lost standout runner Isaac Martin to a knee injury in the first half.
Alex Swain and Vincent Dean rushed for Ram TDs in the second half. Cleveland still finished with nearly 250 yards rushing on the night.
Offensively, Alex, Vincent and Brandon kept the offense churning some yards after Isaac went out, Morris said. And Aaron just continues to grow at quarterback.
Mack Cox and Nick Locklear intercepted South Johnston passes in the fourth quarter to ice the victory.
The defense came around and played well in the second half, Morris said. We came up with a couple of turnovers to help hold them off and our secondary made plays.
Buddy Burgess had 78 yards receiving for South Johnston.
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