RALEIGH — Knightdale survived a late surge over host Sanderson for a 21-13 season-opening win Friday night.
Both teams shook off some opening-game jitters and several turnovers, but the Knights Unique Jennings late interception of Matt Koehler at their own 15-yard line helped seal their victory.
I felt we were out-schemed and out-played, Knightdale coach Rob Sensensey said. But our team didnt fold and fall by the wayside.
Knightdales Daquan Lilly scored on the teams opening drive on a 20-yard touchdown reception from Marquavious Johnson.
The play was set up by a 28-yard run by Johnson on third down.
Sanderson answered in the closing seconds of the first quarter on a 24-yard Koehler touchdown run. Grayson Gregorys extra point tied it at 7.
Knightdale answered on the next possession. Johnsons 3-yard touchdown run capped a 15-play, 65-yard drive. The Knights sustained the drive on a fourth-and-four at the Sanderson 21-yard line with a 10-yard Johnson run.
The Knights took a 14-7 lead into the half.
Sanderson came out in the second half with better defense and an opened-up air attack, but was plagued with drive-killing turnovers, including two inside the Knights 20-yard line.
Koehler was 8-for-13 in the second half and had 126 yards and a touchdown.
We did a good job of shutting down the running game, but they moved it through the air against us, Sensensey said.
Koehler connected with freshman Bryson Powers in the the third quarter for a touchdown, but the Knights blocked the extra point to preserve a 14-13 lead.
Knightdale struggled on offense but the defense rebounded.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Koehler lateralled a too-high pass to Powers. Chris Malone scooped up the ball at the Spartans 30-yard line and ran it in for the score.
Sanderson rallied but Jennings interception sealed the victory.
The kids battled. Ill never take that away from them, Sensensey said. But in games like these we want to assert our will.