The defense that led Garner into the playoffs was the same one that propelled the Trojans to victory in Friday’s first round.
Garner held visiting Green Hope to -8 yards of total offense and just one first down in a 51-0 runaway win in the first round of the NCHSAA 4AA playoffs. Garner (11-1), the No. 2 seed out of the East bracket, will host Richmond in next week’s second round. The seventh-seeded Falcons ended their season at 6-6.
The Trojan defense asserted itself right from Green Hope’s first play, when Marcus Davis pounced on the first of his two fumble recoveries after a sack of Falcon quarterback Jake Walker.
Green Hope was forced into seven punts (six of them being three-and-outs) and two lost fumbles while running just 29 plays from scrimmage. The Falcons also fumbled away a punt return and yielded an onside kick recovery to Garner on the opening kickoff.
That same Garner defense has been on display for much of the season and has surrendered just 20 points over the past eight games with five shutouts.
“The guys believe in each other and that’s what counts,” Garner coach Thurman Leach said of his defensive unit. “They trust in each other to do their job and they go out there and do it. It starts at the top and filters its way down.”
While the Trojan defense was doing its thing, Garner’s offense made sure it wasn’t forgotten. The Trojans scored four touchdowns on their first 21 offensive plays and found the end zone five times in their six first-half possessions to open up a 34-0 halftime lead.
Collin Eaddy rushed for 110 yards on just 16 carries, with four of those runs culminating in the end zone. Quarterback Braxton Brokenborough, Anthony Stephenson and Dwayne Holloway each added rushing touchdowns for Garner, which totaled 282 yards of offense.
Leach’s confidence in his defense freed him to opt for an onside kick to begin the game, one the Trojans recovered to set up a four-play touchdown drive capped by a 22-yard run by Eaddy.
“If it worked, it worked. If it didn’t, the defense has been great all year, so we’re all right,” Leach said.
After Davis’ fumble recovery on Green Hope’s first play from scrimmage, Brokenborough slipped around the right end on a 7-yard quarterback keeper for a 14-0 lead. Stephenson’s 26-yard scoring burst pushed the Trojan lead to 21-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Eaddy added touchdown runs of 6 and 1 yards in the second quarter before opening up the third quarter with a 16-yard score, his fourth of the game.
Holloway later scored from 5 yards out and Noah Giroux tacked on a 23-yard field goal for good measure in the waning seconds.
Garner needs four more wins for its first state championship since 1987.
“If they’re playing this way right here, great. We’ll take it. That’d be awesome,” Leach said. “We just have to continue with that momentum and see what happens.”