GARNER — Garner began its quest to return to the state championship game in impressive fashion as the top-seeded Trojans rolled into the second round of the NCHSAA 4-AA playoffs Friday night with a 59-21 win over visiting Athens Drive.
I feel real good about this kind of start to the playoffs, Garner coach Nelson Smith said. I knew Athens Drive was a good team. Im proud of our defense and our offense. We held our composure early in the game when they cut in to our lead. Thats what this group does, they just keep bouncing back.
On the first play from scrimmage, Trojans quarterback Vincent Jeffries connected with Armani Lanier for a 55-yard gain. Three plays later Tyler Hinton plowed into the end zone from one yard out.
One minute and 24 seconds into the game, unbeaten Garner led 7-0.
Lanier continued to make big plays in the first quarter, this time on special teams. The senior wide receiver took a Jaguars punt at his own 29-yard line all the way back for the Trojans second score of the game with 5:55 still remaining in the opening period.
In a quarter full of big plays, Athens (5-7) finally joined the action with 2:00 left. Quarterback Jason West hit Brad Bowling down the left sideline to pull the Jags to within a touchdown at 14-7.
Garners defense tightened in the second quarter, while its offense continued to roll.
Jeffries threw his first touchdown pass of the game at the 8:45 mark when he hooked up with Brayden Sims from 6 yards out. A little more than two minutes later, the Trojans pushed their lead to 28-7 on a Jeffries to Lanier 55-yard bomb.
The Jeffries-Lanier connection continued to be productive for Garner in the second half, as the two hooked up again early in the third quarter to make it 35-7 Trojans.
Top-seeded Garner (12-0) added three more touchdowns and a 40-yard Kenneth Perkinson field goal to emphatically punch its ticket to the second round.