CLAYTON — They didn’t draw it up in the dirt, they just came up with it on the fly.
Fittingly, it was a fly pattern up the right sideline that gave Garner a 35-28 victory over Clayton on Friday night as senior quarterback Brighton Hudson dropped a perfectly timed ball right into the hands of standout junior Nyheim Hines with 30.3 seconds to play for the game-winning 32-yard touchdown pass.
“It wasn’t even a play,” Hines said. “But the time out gave us the time to come up with that. All I had to do was get by my man to the inside and Brighton did the rest. It was a perfect ball.”
Hines’ fifth touchdown of the night was the fourth straight time Garner had responded to a Clayton score. The Trojans led 7-0, 14-7, 21-14 and 28-21 only to see Clayton pull even each after each Garner touchdown.
“That’s what you expect Garner and Clayton games to be,” Garner coach Thurman Leach said. “The kids on both sides laid it all on the line.”
Garner (6-2 overall, 2-1 Greater Neuse River 4A) went up 28-21 with 6:27 to play on a 15-yard touchdown run by Hines. Clayton (5-3, 1-2) answered on its next drive with Eric Hoy coming back for a slightly underthrown ball on for a 25-yard touchdown connection with 3:12 to play and a 28-all tie.
But the Trojans converted a pair of third-and-shorts on the game-winning drive before the Hudson-to-Hines connection for the win.
Hines totaled 449 all-purpose yards on the night. He ran for 207 yards on 31 carries, caught five balls for 89 yards, threw a 45-yards pass and had 108 kick return yards, including a 98-yard kick off return for a touchdown to open the second half.
The 5-foot-8, 182-pound junior scored on runs of 18, 22 and 15 yards as well.
He also batted down Clayton’s last-ditch Hail Mary pass on the final play of the game, wrapping up a near ideal 40-second defense finish for Garner that saw the Trojans’ Kevan Coppage and Aaron Smith register key quarterback hurries that erased Clayton’s last hope to forge another tie.
Sam May, Jace Brown and Rodney Rowe all ran for Clayton touchdowns. Hoy has 112 yards rushing on 10 carries and 76 yards receiving.
“If I can get these guys to stay at that level they just played at, we’ll be in great shape,” Clayton coach Randy Pinkowski said. “We have the potential to be giant slayers. … I’ve never been more proud of a team than I am tonight.”