West Johnston came up with the big stops when they needed them Friday night, complementing the 1-2 punch of Tony Mack and Cameron Williams, lifting the Wildcats to a wild, 27-25, victory over Clayton.
The Wildcats blocked one PAT attempt, then stuffed the Comets on a pair of two-point conversions, the second coming with three minutes left in the game. West would need all three of those critical stops, as well as the efforts of Mack and Williams, who were almost unstoppable when big plays were needed.
Mack rushed for 211 yards on 30 carries and three touchdowns, while Williams completed 11-of-18 passes for 117 yards a touchdown. He also added 105 yards rushing on 19 attempts..
But their efforts were countered by the Comets, who say Blake Joyner haul in five passes for 164 yards and a touchdown, while Eric Hoy passed for two touchdowns and ran for two more. Hoy completed 13-of-19 passes for 241 yards.
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“We played hard and Clayton played hard too,” said a jubilant West Johnston coach Jimmy Williams. “We matched their intensity all night.”
Williams said the resilience of the Wildcats (7-3, 4-2 Greater Neuse River 4A Conference) to overcome adversity paid off, as West Johnston shook off a pair of holding calls that negated touchdowns.
“Every time they (penalties) tried to knock us down,” Williams said, “We shook it off and came back fighting. I’m real proud of our kids for that.”
The Wildcats jumped out to a 14-0 lead, scoring with one second left in the first quarter on a 10-yard strike from Williams to Tijon Jones-Benson.
Mack raced in with the first of his three TDs, scoring from 19-yards out midway through the second period for the 14-0 advantage.
Clayton (5-5, 2-4 GNRC) struck back with big plays, driving 43 yards in two play, culminated by a 25-yard jaunt off the left side by Hoy, closing the gap to 14-7 just 24 seconds after Mack’s score.
West moved the ball up the field, driving to the Comets’ 32, only to see Clayton’s Michael Kwiatkowski come up with an interception.
The Comets’ hit the biggest offensive play of the night, when Hoy found Patterson on the left flat. West Johnston appeared to have Joyner wrapped up for a short gain, but he shook off two defenders and dashed 70 yards up the left sideline for the score.
Jowann Holder blocked Clayton’s point-after attempt, holding West Johnston’s halftime lead at 14-13.
The Comets took their only lead of the night when Hoy found Joe Ross Parrish all alone in the middle of the end zone for a 19-14 lead, but the two-point conversion attempt was stopped by the Wildcats.
West retaliated with a pair of time-consuming drives, the first culminated on a 2-yard run by Mack with two seconds left in the third period, but the Wildcats’ two-point attempt was short.
Then, with six minutes left in the game, the Wildcats used the legs of Mack and Williams to drive 60 yards for what would be the clinhing score. Mack covered the final three yards for the score.
Clayton wasted little time in moving the all down the field, with Hoy finding Patterson for 30 and 25 yard gains, moving the ball inside of the West 10.
Hoy raced five yards for a TD to pull the Comets within 27-25, and Clayton elected to go for two points to tie the score. Hoy’s pass to the left side of the end zone was incomplete, but West was called for interference. The Comets opted to run the ball on the second opportunity, only to see the runner thrown back by the left side of the Wildcats line on the play.
Clayton then attempted a squib kick, but the Wildcats recovered and ran out the final three minutes, driving to the Comets 10-yard-line.
“IT sure feels good to beat Clayton,” Williams said. “What also feels good is that this is the first time in four years we will be able to go to the playoffs. Iif we win next week, we will assure ourselves of a thrid-place finish in the conference.”