North Johnston took the first step in first-year coach Ashley Ennis’ eyes of the rebuilding process Friday night with a 42-14 victory over North Lenoir. The win halted a 19-game losing streak for the Panthers.
“The first step we had to take was winning a game we were supposed to win,” Ennis said. “And I felt like we did that Friday night.”
The Panthers rushed for 468 yards on the night and senior back Quamel Kenion and sophomore Jahvonte Dublin both rushed for more than 170 yards. Kenion led the way with 197 yards on 26 carries and a TD; Dublin added 171 yards on 19 carries and a TD. A.J. Edwards scored two TDs, while Tracy Barnes and Dallas Krob had one score each.
“Our offensive line blocked really well for the second week in a row and our back ran really hard,” Ennis said.
Defensively, Tyler Bass led North with 10 tackles. Jonathan Gonzalez and Jacob Cuddington had a half-dozen tackles each.
Ennis said that the confidence of North’s players has grown in the last two weeks, since a lopsided loss to Princeton. There were signs in a 25-7 loss to Lakewood but costly mistakes allowed the big plays to go the Leopards’ way all night.
North (1-5) gets a week off before beginning the grind of Eastern Plains 2A Conference play.
“We’re back in the underdog role in a very tough conference,” Ennis said. “We just have to concentrate on playing confident, physical football and limiting our mistakes.”
Kenan-Princeton aftermath: Princeton, which fell to James Kenan 26-23 Friday night in what might have been the highest profile regular-season prep football game ever played in Johnston County, has the week off and the verdict on whether that’s a good or a bad thing for the Bulldogs’ psyche will not be determined until they play again.
From a Princeton perspective, the two key takeaways I’d take away from the clash between the No. 2 and 3 ranked 1A teams in the state are:
1. Turnovers kill you, period. From the spotlight of Sunday Night Football in the NFL all the way down to the fifth quarter action at the local Saturday 7-8-year-old rec league game. If you give the other team the ball in big situations — as Princeton did three times against Kenan — on a fumble snap, a high punt snap and an uncovered onside kick, you will pay dearly.
That’s what happened to Princeton Friday night.
2. The Bulldogs are now right there with a team like Kenan — the defending 1AA state champion – and a yearly player in late November football. Princeton is just as big, talented and as fast as the Tigers were. And they were more physical, as Kenan coach Ken Avent Jr. lamented in his post game interview.
Yes, Kenan will more than likely end up as Carolina 1A Conference champions, but everything is still in place for Princeton to make a real run at a state title. Friday night’s game — although the unkindest of result on the scoreboard — is real proof of that and that’s the most important lesson for the Bulldogs to remember from the events of Sept. 26, 2014. ...
Get used to hearing the name Ken Avent III and hope that your favorite college team gets on his trail soon. The Kenan sophomore quarterback, the son of the aforementioned Tigers’ head coach and grandson to the legendary former North Duplin coach Ken Avent Sr., has all the modern quarterback tools.
He made a lot of impressive throws Friday against Princeton — back shoulder fades, out patterns to the wide side of the field and numerous perfectly arched and targeted fly and fade routes — and can run just enough to keep defenses honest. Plus he has maybe one of the most impressive Avent family weapons: a great offensive football mind. …
Speaking of great offensive minds, I’ve never left a game featuring a Ken Avent Jr.-coached team not amazed by how his play calls fit together and consistently build one after another after another. (Remember, Avent Jr. has Johnston County coaching roots. He started his career as an assistant under Ross Renfrow at Princeton High School, then later became the head coach at North Johnston, leading the Panthers to the 2005 state 1AA semifinals.)
Friday’s lasting impression of that Avent play calling? The play before the Tigers scored the game-winning touchdown was one that the Kenan offense had been building toward the entire second half. Five or six times in the second half, the Tigers ran sweeps or tosses to the wing back on the far side of the formation. Those plays worked with varying success — from 50-yard TD run to 2- or 3-yard gain — but they all set up one of the game’s most important plays.
Avent Jr. called a play action pass with the same run action that featured the same wing back running a wheel route up the sideline. Avent III hit Khalil Savage in stride for a 28-yard gain to the Bulldogs’ 11-yard-line, erasing any clock concerns on the game-winning drive. ...
And if anybody wondered if Johnny Frasier was as good as all the hype, he proved he was Friday night with a 200-plus yard rushing game against a top five team in the state. Few of those yards of the very easy variety.