East Wake’s 1-2 punch of Damontay Rhem and Tripp Harrington proved to be too much for West Johnston on Friday night.
Rhem rushed for 176 yards and two touchdowns and Harrington passed for 170 yards and two TDs – both to Tyler Burton – and ran for 50 more, leading the Warriors to a 28-14 victory against the Wildcats.
With the win, East (6-2, 3-1 Greater Neuse River 4A) clinched its first winning season in six years – current West coach Jimmy Williams was at the helm. West fell to 5-3 and 2-2.
All 42 points were scored in a 13-minute span to end the first half.
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“This is really big for our program,” East coach John Poulnot said. “We’ve probably clinched a playoff spot.
“That was our first goal. If we finish second in the conference (behind Garner) that’s not bad. We’ve got two guys who carry the ball and nobody can single out one person.”
West finished with 181 yards total offense, with 118 including a pair of touchdown passes coming off the arm of sophomore quarterback Andre Wilson.
“We’ve still got an excellent season going,” Williams said. “Our goals have not changed. We can still finish in the top three in this league, and we can still make the playoffs.
“East Wake is pretty good. They held their own against Garner and we didn’t. We made a lot of mistakes tonight, but we were still able to hang with them. I’m happy for East Wake because they were always good to me, but I’m a Wildcat now.”
The Warriors took a 7-0 lead with 49 seconds left in the first, as Rhem burst into the end zone from 12 yards out to complete an 11-play, 89-yard drive with Victor Romero adding the boot.
West took just 12 seconds to respond on Tyrone Jones’ 80-yard kickoff return with Christian Torres converting.
East scored on its first play two possessions later, as Rhem escaped for an 80-yard scamper with Romero on the kick at 8:41 of the second.
“We stayed consistent,” Rhem said. “We were able to force them into lost yardage a lot of times. We’ve worked hard for my first winning season, and this is something special.”
The Warriors recovered the ensuing squib kick at the West 37, taking seven plays to make it 21-7 following a 27-yard toss from Harrington to Burton.
“Our offense was working real well in the first half,” Harrington said. “In the second we were kind of slow, but that’s something we can work on.
“We were able to control the ball in the second half when we needed to. We just have to stay focused and not let anything negative get in our minds.”
West halved the gap on a 46-yard pass from Wilson to Joshua Collier with 3:53 left in the half.
But East scored on the half’s final snap on an 11-yard pass from Burton to Harrington with Romero adding the try.
And there were no more points in the game.
“Everybody on defense was doing his job tonight, especially in the second half,” West senior safety Brandon Baucom said. “In the first half we made some mistakes we shouldn’t have ever made. We got really good calls in the second half.
“I think we still have momentum for the last three games and we’re set up pretty good. If we make the playoffs for the first time in my career it’s going to be really amazing.”