Seniors answered the call when East Wake needed them the most in Friday’s 54-35 victory over Clayton.
“We played through a lot of adversity, and those guys, the senior class, stepped up,” East Wake coach John Poulnott said. “They saw the adversity facing us, and they took control of the game.”
The dagger came on a 100-yard interception return by Quincy Jackson when Comets quarterback Eric Hoy was threatening to make it a one-possession game with 3:11 to play.
Clayton (5-4, 2-3 Greater Neuse River 4A) turned a 21-7 first-half deficit into 28-all tie after Hoy connected on a 54-yard pass to Blake Joyner midway through the third quarter.
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East Wake (7-2, 4-1) scored on runs by quarterback Tripp Harrington (63 yards) and running back Damontay Rhem (43 yards) to take the 40-28 lead through three quarters. Hoy’s 1-yard rushing touchdown to start the fourth quarter made for a hectic time for the Warriors.
“There was a ton of pressure,” Poulnott said. “When they evened things up at 28, we weren’t moving the ball. (Clayton) did a great job in the second half neutralizing our running game for the greater part.
“(Hoy) gives you a lot of problems with his athleticism and ability to throw the ball as well as he does, especially the deep ball.”
Trailing 40-35 with 5:21 to play, the Comets sacked Harrington on consecutive plays to set up third-and-29. Harrington rolled right on the play and threw across his body for 59 yards to Jackson for a first down. He finished the drive with a 9-yard strike to Tyler Burton to set up a 47-35 lead.
Kevonte Holder gave Clayton its first score on a 9-yard run. Hoy scored on runs of 17 and 9 yards in the second quarter and finished 11-for-25 for 179 yards passing and added 166 yards on 21 carries.
Harrington (13-of-21, 227 yards) found Burton on scoring passes of 13 and 41 yards in the second quarter to give East Wake a 28-21 halftime lead. He opened with a 46-yard touchdown pass to Deandre Holmes in the second minute of play.
Rhem followed with an 85-yard breakaway up the middle to set up the 14-0 lead.
Jackson had five receptions for 104 yards for the Warriors.