It took one Millbrook offensive snap to put the Wildcats on the board Friday in the season opener against visiting Fuquay-Varina.
Fuquay-Varina pounded the ground in its first possession, running more than seven minutes off the clock before giving up the ball on downs. That’s when Millbrook senior running back Marcus Marshall took the Wildcats’ first snap of the game 74 yards and into the end zone to put Millbrook ahead. It was the first of several big plays for the Wildcats as they ran away with a 34-14 win.
But Millbrook coach Clarence Inscore wanted to see a more balanced game from his team. The big plays are great, he said, but they won’t always be there as the season wears on.
“We just weren’t consistent on either side of the ball,” Inscore said. “We gave up some long drives defensively; we did stop them when we needed to most of the time, but we just weren’t consistent enough. We didn’t sustain drives, but we got big plays. We love big plays, but we like to keep our defense off the field as well.”
Marshall added another long score in the second quarter, again taking the first snap of the Wildcats possession the distance – this time 57 yards – seconds after the Bengals got on the board with a Damarus Williams 10-yard touchdown carry.
On the ensuing Fuquay possession, the Bengals got good field position from a Zack Jones 72-yard kick return and got within four yards of the goal line, but a fumble on second-and-goal led to a Millbrook recovery and 95-yard Anthony Bowman return to put the Wildcats up 21-6 and clearly in the driver’s seat heading into the half.
“For a first game of the year, it’s hard to believe there was only one turnover in this game,” Inscore said of both teams’ play amid hot, humid and briefly rainy conditions. “It was a big one for us obviously, but I’m proud of our team and the way we handled the pressure and came out and played with all the expectations on them, but we’ve got to keep getting better every week.”
Marshall led the way for Millbrook (1-0), finishing with 203 yards on 13 carries – three for touchdowns.
“He ran the ball really hard all night long, and we rode him,” Inscore said. “Reid (Herring) did a good job. He was smart with the ball. We didn’t turn the ball over.”
Herring, the Wildcats’ junior quarterback, completed 4 of 10 passes for 45 yards. He connected with Jonte Leaston on a 15-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.
Though the scoreboard didn’t show it, Fuquay-Varina (0-1) had success keeping the ball out of Millbrook’s hands, which head coach Jeb Hall said was the team’s goal coming in.
“If you take away a few of those plays (like the 14-point swing that came from Fuquay’s red zone fumble leading to a Millbrook touchdown), it’s a totally different game,” Hall said. “I was proud of them. We kept fighting. We kept grinding ... I felt like we controlled the ball. We’ve got a big offensive line and we only have two guys that are back that started off of last year’s team, so everybody’s really of new to this. I think we did a good job and we’ll evaluate and see where we’ve got to get better.”
Williams led the Bengals with 140 yards on 28 carries, including a second touchdown carry for 16 yards in the fourth quarter.