First-year Knights coach Cedric Dargan wasn’t nominated for an Ice Bucket Challenge, but became the target of one anyway after his team held off a late Sanderson rally for a 13-7 triumph.
The outcome was reminiscent of last season, when Knightdale held off a Spartan surge also in their season opener.
Knightdale’s defense accounted for both its scores in the second quarter – a 38-yard fumble recovery taken in by Justin Blango and a 78-yard interception returned by Jamie Brown. Vlyle Walker hit one extra point and had his second blocked.
Defense also bailed the Knights out while the Spartans tried for the go-ahead score twice in the final four minutes. Sanderson was in Knightdale territory when the Knights forced a turnover on downs with 31 seconds to play.
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“It wasn’t the prettiest win I’ve seen, but I’ll take the ‘W’ any time I can get it,” Dargan said of his first victory. “Attacking the ball – that’s what we preach. (The defense) attacked the ball, got two turnovers and turned those turnovers into points.
“When we needed a play, they made it for us and the last drive was nothing different. We needed a big stop and that’s what they gave us.”
Giving the Spartans hope was a 49-yard rushing score by Michael Markland and an extra point by Walker Lozaw at the midway point in the fourth quarter.
Sanderson’s defense completed a shutout of the Knightdale offense by stopping a pair of Knights drives that began inside the 25-yard line.
Dejuan Dye led Sanderson’s ground attack with 85 yards on 12 carries. Spartan quarterback Brett Bollinger was 6 for 11 for 90 yards.
“That’s a well-coached team,” Dargan said of Sanderson. “We’ve got a tough schedule ahead of us, so we’ve got to get better. The good thing is, they say you get the most improvement from game one to game two.”