West Johnston head coach Jimmy Williams had a sneaking suspiscion his team’s Greater Neuse River 4A Conference battle against Southeast Raleigh would come down to the fourth quarter.
Williams was indeed right and, fortunately for him, the Wildcats came up big in the final quarter, scoring 26 unanswered points en route to a key come-from-behind 48-34 win.
“Southeast Raleigh is a very strong, athletic football team so I just knew that it would be a dogfight and it would come down to the fourth quarter,” Williams said. “It did. We beat a very good football team tonight and I’m extremely proud of the kids.”
The win moved West Johnston (6-3, 3-2 GNRC) into a third place tie with Southeast Raleigh (4-5, 3-2) for the moment and gave the Wildcats the inside track on securing a state playoff berth.
The Wildcats fell behind 34-22 late in the third quarter after the Bulldogs turned a pair of West Johnston turnovers into touchdowns.
Southeast Raleigh junior quarterback Dylan Parham connected with Jaquell Taylor for each of the third quarter scores.
Parham finished his night with 282 yards passing including three touchdown passes, all of which went to Taylor, who hauled in 13 passes for 192 yards.
West Johnston’s comeback effort in the fourth quarter similarly was aided by turnovers by the opposition.
Brandon Baucom and Noah Liles came up with big interceptions in the fourth quarter and Quinton Brown forced a fumble that was recovered by Jon Rose.
“We just had a couple late miscues that were just untimely,” Southeast Raleigh coach Michael Thibodeau said. “A penalty here or there, a turnover here or there--just little things that added up at the end.”
West Johnston senior quarterback Cameron Williams made sure the good play of the defense wouldn’t go to waste as he threw touchdon passes to Josh Collier and Tyrone Jones as well as ran one in to seal the game in the final moments.
Williams, who came into the game ended his night with 168 yards rushing, 133 yards passing and four touchdowns.
“We’re a different football team when Cameron is in the game,” Coach Williams said. “He is just a grinder; a great high school football player who loves to play and compete.
“When he is in the game, we’re a different team.”
Williams helped to open up some running lanes for running back Tony Mack as the Wildcats initially had a difficult time moving the ball against a big and athletic Southeast Raleigh defensive line.
Mack rumbled for 132 yards on the ground and three touchdowns.
The Bulldogs grabbed hold of the momentum first.
On Southeast Raleigh’ opening drive of the game, Parham was a perfect 5-for-5 in the air and ended the drive with a five-yard touchdown pass to Jaquell Taylor.
The Bulldogs mixed the run in with the pass on their second scoring drive and Parham capped off the impressive nine-play, 98-yard march with an eight-yard scramble for the 14-0 lead.
Returning from an injury, Cameron Williams did not enter the game at quarterback until the second quarter. Williams helped the Wildcats offense get in gear immediately.
Late in the second quarter, Williams helped West Johnston move the ball down the field on quarterback keepers of 31 and eight yards.
With Southeast Raleigh’s attention turned towards Williams, the quarterback handed the ball off to Tony Mack on the zone read and Mack rumbled in from 24 yards out to get the hosts on the scoreboard.
Momentum would change hands a few times in the first half’s final minute as Southeast Raleigh fumbled the ball on an attempted reverse deep in West Johnton territory.
The Wildcats recovered the fumble and capitalized with a Cameron Williams-to-Tyrone Jones touchdown connection. with eight seconds left in the half to tie the game.
The Bulldogs responded on the ensuing kickoff as senior speedster Brandon Flint returned the kick 71 yards for a touchdown as time expired to put the visitors back on top.