If there’s one thing a team doesn’t want in Cleveland Stadium in the young and promising Garner-Cleveland high schools football rivalry, it’s a big lead.
Garner, the N&O’s No. 2-ranked team, proved once again with a 38-28 victory Thursday night, rallying from a 14-0 first-quarter deficit against Cleveland to move to 2-0 on the season.
“Composure, we had it,” said Garner coach Thurman Leach of his team. “They didn’t point fingers at each other, they communicated with each other on the field and took the coaching we were able to do during the game.
“Cleveland’s a good, well-coached football team. They make very few mistakes, play hard on both sides of the ball. You have to earn it against them.”
After struggling against the No.9-ranked Rams’ read option rushing attack on the first two drives of the game, Garner held Cleveland to a loss of six yards the rest of the night.
“We got off of our heels,” Leach said of his defense’s play. “We stopped waiting to move and started attacking their ball carriers.”
After Cleveland took its last lead of the night – 21-16 – on a 78-yard pass from Caiden Norman to Kenny White with 8:37 to play in the third quarter, Garner zipped down the field for a scoring drive capped by a 1-yard Brodie West touchdown run. Collin Eaddy’s two-point conversion run put Garner up 24-21. Junior quarterback Braxton Brokenborough directed a nine-play scoring drive on the Trojans’ next drive, hitting Dalton Counts on a 9-yard touchdown pass for a 31-21 advantage.
Cleveland (1-1) converted two fourth downs on its next drive but failed on the third attempt, giving the ball back to the Trojans. Cleveland’s next drive ended when Garner cornerback Dijimon Harris jumped a route in along the sideline and ran away for a 38-yard interception return and a 17-point Garner lead.
The Trojan offense was pretty balanced all night, throwing for 188 and rushing for 149. (A pair of high snaps knocked off 38 yards from Garner’s net rushing totals.)
Brodie West was 10-of-11 through the air for 141 yards and a TD; Brokenborough went 6-for-11 for 47 and a TD. Eaddy ran for 116 with a touchdown.
“We battled through adversity, talked about adversity and came out and the defense started cracking heads, the offense was playing together,” West said of Garner’s comeback.
Norman threw for 316 yards and two TDs in the loss (29-of-46). Cleveland’s Jacob Scott caught 11 balls for 97 yards and Patrick Jesequel had eight catches for 88 yards.
Cleveland jumped out to a 14-0 lead behind the balanced running attack of quarterback Caiden Norman and tailback Corey Brown, which kept Garner’s defense confused early.
Norman, a junior, opened the scoring on a 10-yard run on the game’s first possession; Brown followed with a 4-yard TD jaunt for a 14-0 lead with 2:03 to play in the first quarter.
Garner got on the board for the first time with a 29-yard Noah Giroux field goal early in the second quarter as Collin Eaddy started to find a few holes on the ground. Later in the second quarter, senior quarterback Brodie West went 3-for-3 for 55 yards on a 75-yard Garner drive to cut the gap to 14-10. West dropped the ball into the hands of sophomore Justin Lewis on a 20-yard pass in the end zone to cap the drive.
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