RALEIGH — For more than a week, Leesville Road and Millbrook knew Fridays Cap Eight 4A matchup would be a big one.
As the date drew closer, the teams tied for first in the conference found out they would also be battling sloppy conditions.
Fridays game time was moved up an hour because of the rainy forecast, but by game time the field was already drenched with puddles.
Leesville Road (8-2, 5-1, Cap Eight) won the slippery battle 7-3, boosted by an 8-yard touchdown run by Braxton Berrios, who returned after missing more than a month with a foot injury. The senior standout and Miami recruit put the Pride on the board with 1 minute, 34 seconds remaining in the first half.
I dont really believe in calling a game off, said Millbrook coach Clarence Inscore. Football is supposed to be played, so we came out and played and our guys played hard, and they did too. It was two good football teams battling it out. They just made one more play than we did tonight.
Leesville and Wakefield share the league lead and play each other next week.
Both teams relied on the ground game, with Malcolm Hitchcock leading the Pride with 144 yards on 22 carries and Marcus Marshall taking the load of Millbrooks offense, carrying 25 times for 105.
Almost all of Marshalls yardage came in the first half, including the junior leading the way on an 11-play, 67-yard drive that put the Wildcats on the Leesville Road 9-yard line. Leesvilles defense held, forcing a Jarrett Cervi 27-yard field goal to put Millbrook (7-3, 4-2) on the board less than two minutes into the second quarter.
We were able to run the ball in the first half effectively, but unfortunately we couldnt put it in the end zone, Inscore said. We had to settle for a field goal, and that was the difference in the ball game, but Im proud of our kids.
They had one good drive all night long. Our defense stood up the rest of the night. That was two good defenses playing against each other, and you look at the field conditions and it being wet; there really werent that many turnovers in this ball game tonight, and thats a credit to both teams.
The teams entered the game in a three-way tie with Wakefield for the Cap Eights top spot.
But both teams struggled to get their footing offensively, though they fumbled the ball just once apiece in a steady rain that continued until the start of the fourth quarter.
Leesville Road was able to mix it up, switching between Berrios and Hitchcock at the quarterback position.
Berrios finished with 13 carries for 56 yards.
Having (Berrios) back takes pressure off Malcolm, so now you have to deal with Malcolm Hitchcock and Braxton like opponents were having to do in the beginning of the year, said Leesville coach Chad Smothers. Our kids, the resilience they put up the last couple of weeks and the effort theyve shown, and the effort of the assistant coaches is just tremendous. Now weve got ourselves in a situation where we can compete for a conference championship at home, and thats all you can ask for.
Berrios, who said Fridays game felt like the first game of the season after sitting out for more than five games, looked forward to the matchup.
Its at home, senior night, and again its for the conference title. So its huge, he said. Theyre a great team. They always have been, and I cant wait.