The king will not go away with the kingdom that is the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference football ranks.
No. 3-ranked Garner wrapped up yet another conference championship — its 23rd in school history and 12th since 2000 — in the league that will disappear with realignment next fall with a 32-7 triumph over previously unbeaten West Johnston Friday night. The Trojans (9-1 overall, 6-0 conference) need a win over Rolesville next week to take the title outright, but they’ll have the league’s automatic conference champion playoff bid.
Garner forced multiple West Johnston turnovers and found different ways to score in a battle of two stellar defensive units.
The Trojans broke a 7-all tie with a 19-0 scoring run in the final 4 minutes and 20 seconds of the first half.
Garner scored three of its four TDs in the opening 24 minutes on short drives after forcing Wildcat turnovers.
“Plays on defense and special teams were big for us tonight,” said Garner coach Thurman Leach. “We did a great job of containing the quarterback and running back on a really talented West Johnston team.”
West (8-1, 5-1) went up 7-0 on an 18-yard Tony Mack TD run on its first drive of the game and had forced punts on Garner’s first two drives, but Keion White made a leaping interception of a Wildcat attempted screen pass inside of the Wildcat 20 to set up Garner’s first score.
Roderic Christian, who entered the game with only one catch, caught two of the three Braxton Brokenborough TD passes in the first half.
Donovan Evans ran for another Garner TD and tailback Collin Eaddy pulled in a 34-yard TD pass.
“We just focused on playing as one unit with one goal,” said Brokenborough on a night where he set a career high for TD passes in a game. “We did a great job to help every side of the ball out with plays on defense, special teams and offense.”
Brokenborough finished with 199 yards passing and no interceptions.
“We made plays in the passing game that we haven’t been making this year,” Leach said.
Garner intercepted three Wildcat passes, forced two fumbles and covered a low punt snap on the night. The only Trojan ball-handling miscue was a low punt snap that Noah Giroux had to field with his knee on the ground in the second half.
Neither team’s running game had much success. West ran for just 31 yards and Garner had only 131 on the night, most of that coming in the clock-grinding phase in the second half. Eaddy led the Trojans with 73 yards on 18 carries.
The only scoring in the second half was a pair of Giroux field goals for Garner.
West’s TD — set up largely by a 70-yard reception on third down by Noah Liles — were the first points Garner has allowed in five games. Liles finished with 107 yards receiving.
Both teams failed to have much success running the ball against each other’s defense in the first half. Garner, which was able to run the ball when it went into a clock-grinding mode in the second half, often times lined Eaddy up as a slot recevier in the first half instead of in the backfield.
Mack had 43 yards on six carries for the Wildcats; West quarterback Andre Wilson struggled to get away from Garner’s defensive front and had a net rushing total of negative 13 yards because of sacks.
Garner’s Dijimon Harris made an unforgettable juggling catch while falling down against excellent coverage from Liles to set up a Trojan touchdown as well.
West Johnston is still in line to earn a high playoff seed in the 4A state playoffs with a win in its season finale against Knightdale this coming week. The Wildcats would also set a school record for wins in a season with a triumph over the Knights. The 8-0 start was Wests’ best in school history.
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