WENDELL — Fourteen seniors on the Corinth Holders football team experienced several firsts Friday night when the Pirates played host to Northern Carolina 2A Conference rivals North Johnston.
The first ever Senior Night/homecoming for the Pirates was planned before the season even started but the Pirates’ 48-14 win over the Panthers sent Corinth Holders to the 2A playoffs for the first time in school history, a development many outside of the program may not have seen coming at the beginning of the season.
“Getting a chance to win our first homecoming, to get our first home victory and also our first trip to the playoffs…it’s all good,” chuckled Corinth Holders coach Barry Honeycutt.
The Pirates (5-6 overall, 5-2 in conference) ended their season as the number three seed in the NCC winning five of their final six games but it wasn’t until Friday night that Corinth Holders, who went winless in its first varsity season last year, got its first victory in front of its home crowd.
William Floyd led the way for the Pirates with 250 yards rushing and four touchdowns as Corinth Holders successfully held back a Panthers team that showed some fight after falling behind early.
Pirates’ senior quarterback Kenneth Collins persevered despite wet playing conditions and several dropped passes early on to lead the Pirates to a 28-7 halftime lead.
Collins, who regularly escaped from the pocket to evade North Johnston oncoming pass rushers, threw for three first half touchdown passes to three different receivers.
It was Collins’ legs, however, that set up the first score of the night for the Pirates as his 14-yard quarterback keeper put his team on the Panthers 1-yard-line.
Floyd took it in from there for the early 6-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
After a pair of short touchdown strikes to Kelvin Dunn and Hampton Smith, Collins appeared to have put the dagger into the Panthers’ slim hopes of making the playoffs when he found Tori Carmichael for a 45-yard touchdown pass down the sideline with just 16 seconds left before the half.
The Panthers, who struggled moving the ball on offense for the first two quarters, found lightning in the bottle on special teams when Devin Larson took the ensuing kickoff, pitched it back to Jamal Morgan and watched the senior take it 82 yards for the touchdown to put the Panthers on the board.
The late score seemed to spark the Panthers who put together a 14-play, 88-yard drive early in the third quarter behind some inspired running from Deangelo Tyson and a pair of Corinth Holders personal fouls to threaten to get within two scores.
But on fourth-and-goal from the Pirates one-yard line, the Panthers’ Daniel Williams was denied the end zone by the stout Pirates’ defensive line.
The play’s importance was magnified on the next play as Floyd took the handoff from Collins, burst up the middle and then cut to his right and beat any and all Panther pursuers for a 97-yard TD run and a 35-7 lead.
Floyd would add a 20-yard and a 55-yard score to finish his huge night.
“He’s has some tremendous games against some other teams this year, especially in the second half,” Honeycutt said of Floyd. “It seems like when the other team’s defense wears down a little bit, he becomes a powerful runner.”
North Johnston, who finished its season with a 3-8 record, turned things around in the second half after gaining just 16 yards on the ground over the first two quarters.
Daniel Williams churned out 112 tough yards including a four-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Deangelo Tyson added 91 more yards on 17 carries.
Morgan added an interception to his kickoff return and Seth Peele collected a pair of sacks to finish off his solid high school career.