KNIGHTDALE — The Knights took advantage of a slew of early Clayton miscues and never let off the gas in a 52-27 triumph over the Comets on Friday.
Knightdale (5-1, 2-0 Greater Neuse River 4A) scored off a blocked field goal attempt, a safety and a fumble to post 23 points in the first 13 minutes – before Clayton ever hit the scoreboard.
“We handed them some stuff on a silver platter,” Comets coach Randy Pinkowski said. “You don’t beat anybody turning the ball over the first four times you touch it.
“We snapped a punt over the head, we let a field goal get blocked, and then we fumbled the next two possessions. You aren’t going to beat good football teams doing that.”
Clayton (5-2, 1-1) entered the game undefeated against fourth-year Knightdale coach Rob Senseney. The outcome of the meeting of the top two teams in the conference was significant for the Knights, whose 2012 season ended with back-to-back losses to the Comets.
“That left a bad taste in our mouth,” Senseney said. “There’s no more hiding. We’re not popping out from the door playing boo anymore. Everyone expects us to make big plays. It was a good win for us.”
Knightdale’s Justin Blango opened scoring with a 74-yard return of Nick Christiansen’s field-goal attempt that was blocked at the end of Clayton’s five-play opening drive.
After the Comets’ next possession stalled on their own 21-yard line, Christiansen lined up to punt but the ball sailed past him. He kicked it off the ground out the back of the end zone for a safety, giving the Knights a 9-0 lead.
Running back Nate Harvey had six carries for 49 yards on the Knights’ first turn on offense, scoring on the sixth touch from 9 yards. Following a pair of Clayton fumbles, Knights quarterback Marquavious Johnson went to the air for a 28-yard strike to Lamont Chaney, setting up the 23-0 lead.
Harvey picked up his second rushing score from 5 yards out and Clayton’s Jace Brown added a 4-yard touchdown before the break.
Knightdale opened a second-half shootout with a 52-yard Marcell Johnson dash in a drive that ended with a 20-yard keeper by his brother, Marquavious, that gave the home team a 37-7 lead.
Brown and Eric Hoy, who carried most of the workload on the ground for the Comets, each scored from short distances in the third quarter. Their touchdowns sandwiched Johnson’s second touchdown pass to Chaney, a 17-yarder.
Leading 45-20 at the start of the fourth, stand-in Knights quarterback Nick Pope hit Daquan Lilly in stride on the left sideline for a 54-yard strike. Clayton’s lone touchdown pass came on a 23-yard pass from Sam May to Raheem Parker inside the final five minutes.
Clayton’s Brown finished with a game-high 165 yards rushing on 17 carries. Knightdale’s Harvey wasn’t far behind, finishing with 161 yards on 20 touches.
May was 5-for-14 for 99 yards, while Johnson completed five of six passes for 92 yards.
The Knights amassed 441 total yards of offense to Clayton’s 414.