Defensive stops were scarce in Cleveland’s 56-53 win over Clayton on Friday, but a trio of Cleveland stops on points after touchdown made the difference in the victory.
Each team scored eight touchdowns in the 109-point game, but Cleveland senior defensive lineman Sterling Johnson blocked Clayton’s first extra point attempt of the night, then blocked another to keep the Rams ahead in the second quarter.
Sophomore defensive back Joseph James batted away a pass on another conversion attempt.
Clayton couldn’t make up those missing three points the rest of the night.
“Those plays ended up making a huge difference in the outcome of the game,” said Cleveland coach Scott Riley, after his first game as a head coach. “They scored eight times, we scored eight times, but those blocks and the pass deflection were really big plays.”
Cleveland senior kicker Paul Johnson, meanwhile, was a perfect 8-for-8 on extra-point attempts.
Sterling Johnson, a Clemson recruit, blocked seven kicks for the Rams last season.
The Rams face Garner, a 28-21 loser to Middle Creek, on Thursday and want to improve their tackling during the short week of preparation.
“We didn’t do a very good job of tackling on the perimeter,” Riley said. “We’ve got to do a better job there. (Garner running back) Nyheim Hines thrives out there.”
Clayton, meanwhile, put up 640 yards of offense while missing its starting running back, Rodney Rowe. Rowe, who ran for more than 1,000 yards last season, is out for a few weeks with a shoulder injury.
Carrboro senior Trai Sharp, who missed most of last season following a knee injury, looked great in his debut. Sharp rushed 22 times for 335 yards and scored on runs of 64, 6, 73 and 4 yards, including the final score that tied the game with 1:18 left. Guard Matthew Junker booted the extra point.
Cedar Ridge mounted a final drive down to the Carrboro 18-yard line, but Dylan Livingston’s 34-yard field goal was blocked by Mellott.
“We thought that our kids played extremely hard, but by no way extremely well,” Castellano said. “We have to get a lot better this week.
“I also think that Elijah Perry was obviously the best player on the field Friday night and I’m extremely happy for that outstanding young man that all of his hard work is paying off.”
Middle Creek plays at Fayetteville E.E. Smith on Friday.
“I was very proud of how our players competed the entire game,” Jenks said. “East Wake is very talented and we fought back from 21 down to make it a seven-point game in the fourth quarter.
“We showed a lot of heart and our sophomores gained a lot of quality game experience against a very good team.”
“Our team competed the entire game,” McGeorge said. “We left ourselves in a few bad situations, but kept clawing.”
He praised the work of Matt Baker, who rushed for 134 yards and also had eight tackles.
“He was in for about 80 percent of our plays,” McGeorge said.
“We had a lot of youth and inexperienced players on the field, but we executed extremely well in all three phases of the game,” Gonet said. “We showed a lot of poise by minimizing mistakes to generate an early lead. I was proud of the energy and focus of our team and hope it continues each week as we continue grow and develop confidence.”
W.E. Warnock and D. Clay Best contributed to this story.