After his football team’s 24-0 victory over Knightdale on Thursday night, Southeast Raleigh coach Daniel Finn told his players he would “rather win ugly than lose pretty.”
Ugly it was. For a half.
Southeast (5-3, 2-2 Greater Neuse River 4A) had five turnovers in the first half – two fumbles lost and three interceptions – and slogged into halftime on the damp, drizzly night with the score tied at 0-0 thanks to a standout defensive effort.
“At least our defense came to play tonight,” Finn said. “The first half we were all out of sync and I blame me. We didn’t practice well this week. That’s on me.”
In the second half, Southeast quarterback Maurice Nelson bounced back from the three interceptions. The converted wide receiver found his favorite target – Tyler Williams – three times for touchdowns and finished 16-for-27 with 181 yards passing.
“Maurice made some mistakes tonight, but he’s a competitor and he did some things to make us win,”Finn said.
The first was a 30-yard TD pass to Williams in the right corner of the end zone, a perfectly thrown pass over a pair of Knightdale defenders on the Bulldogs’ opening possession on the second half. Nelson also had TD passes of 10 and 16 yards to Williams.
“Tyler is a great player,” Finn said of Williams, a junior. “He’s definitely going to be a D1 receiver when he’s a senior. He knows how to go get the ball, to get himself in position to catch the ball. Luckily tonight he was able to bail us out.”
Williams had seven catches for 96 yards.
Southeast’s other touchdown came on a 13-yard run by Terrent Wiggins that made it 18-0.
In the opening half, Southeast could do little right. In addition to the turnovers, a touchdown run was called back because of a penalty.
On defense, however, it was a different story. Southeast bottled up the Knights (1-7, 1-3) and kept them from taking advantage of the opportunities.
“I would think anybody would be disappointed,” Knightdale coach Anthnoy Timmons said. “Anytime you win the turnover battle, you should come out on top. We just didn’t find a way to score. Right now, we are struggling on offense. We’ve just got to find the answers.”
Southeast held Knightdale to 72 yards of offense, 69 of those on the ground.
All in all, it wasn’t so ugly after all for the Bulldogs.