GARNER – The Trojans marched past Wakefield in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4AA playoffs Friday, routing the Wolverines, 76-34.
The game was anticipated to be a shoot out featuring two of the area’s top offensive powers, but the Trojans used a 21-point rally in the final two minutes of the first half to distance themselves and hold on for the win.
Garner (12-0) will face undefeated Leesville Road next Friday.
“It was crazy,” said Garner coach Nelson Smith. “It’s one of those games that you have to sit back and try to remember all that happened. … Our kids came out and they played real hard. I’m real proud of our defense because we knew the best defense was to keep the ball out of their hands.
The teams were knotted at 14 points apiece at the end of the first quarter. Garner scored first after forcing a Wakefield (10-2) punt on the opening possession. Raevon Smith darted up field for a 54-yard score and later capitalized on an interception with another 6-yard score. Wakefield quarterback Connor Mitch found Chris Ballen and Quinton Ridges for Wolverines scores.
But that would be the end of the back-and-forth action, as Garner capitalized on a series of Wakefield miscues to take a commanding lead.
Mitch found wide receiver Jordan Fielleteau on a 51 yard pass, but Fielleteau pulled up and was stripped on the one-yard line. Garner recovered the ball and marched 99-yards for another Smith score. The Trojans would wrap up the half by scoring three times in the last two minutes, including two interception returns to take a 49-28 lead into the half.
“We lost our way a little bit at the end of the half,” said Wakefield coach Rod Sink. “We took some missteps there. I think that was kind of the turning point.”
Garner had scored more than 55 points in its last two contests and more than doubled opponents scores throughout most of the year, and that held true against the Wolverine’s high-scoring offense.
The Trojans were relentless, scoring another four touchdowns in the second half and allowing just one more Wakefield score.
Garner was led by Smith with 215 yards on 12 carries and three touchdown runs. He added a fourth with a 46-yard reception.
Quarterback Vincent Jefferies finished with 188 yards on six of 17 passing for two scores, and Armani Lanier hauled in four receptions for 90 yards. The Trojans also got scores from Nyheim Hines, Tyler Hinton and Raekwon Britton.
“We’re guaranteed 48 minutes in the playoffs, so we need to play all 48. … We survived tonight, so we earned another 48.”
Mitch finished his career with a tough loss, completing 38 of 62 passes for 643 yards, five touchdown passes and three interceptions. Fielleteau led the Wolverines with 305 yards on 17 catches.
“It’s a tough way to go out,” Sink said, who kept Mitch in the game until the final horn “We could have just tried to run it out, but why? Let’s just keep going.”
The Trojans win set up a much anticipated matchup between the two undefeateds – Garner and Leesville Road. Garner will host Leesville next Friday in the third round.
“We’ve got to get back in here tomorrow morning and prepare,” Smith said. “We can’t make mistakes. Whoever makes mistakes in these games isn’t going to come out on top.”