RALEIGH — Leesville Road still sits alone atop the Cap Eight 4A conference after eking out a 17-14 win over Heritage Friday.
The Heritage defense, which came into the game having allowed 14 points in its past four games, held No. 2 Leesville (9-0, 6-0) scoreless in the first quarter and allowed just a field goal in the second.
“Hopefully it’s a wake-up call,” said Leesville Road coach Chad Smothers. “The next time we play like this, we won’t win.”
Heritage (6-4, 4-2) tried to get on the board with its last possession of the half, but had an 85-yard punt return called back for holding. That drive ended in a fumble and the Huskies went into the locker room down 3-0 and without starting quarterback Blake Walters, who suffered a knee injury after an interception near the start of the second quarter.
Back-up quarterback Jaylen Mallory took over behind center. After the Huskies’ first second-half possession ended with an interception in the end zone, Mallory led Heritage downfield to set up a one-yard touchdown score by Greg Clifton to end the third quarter and put Heritage up 7-3 headed into the fourth.
“He had to come in against a very tough defense and in a tight game and a tough conference game,” Heritage coach Jason McGeorge said of Mallory. “We don’t want just moral victories, but (we) came out and played hard and played with every ounce of intensity we had. It’s tough, but I’m proud of my guys.”
The Pride quickly struck back, with junior Braxton Berrios breaking free for 55 yards to put the ball on the one-yard line for quarterback Evan Parker to drive in for the score. Leesville was then able to capitalize on an interception to score again with a Malcolm Hitchcock touchdown on its next possession.
Mallory picked up a 46-yard touchdown for the Huskies in the fourth, but it was too little, too late.
“The only thing that got us through was mental toughness,” Smothers said. “Heritage came out and had a great defensive game plan, and I think that was the difference. They executed their defensive game plan better than our offense played our game.”
The result halted a four-game Huskies win streak and put the Pride one game away from an undefeated regular season. Leesville will play at conference rival No. 4 Wake Forest-Rolesville next week. Heritage will face No. 3 Wakefield.