Big plays on offense and defense in the second quarter turned the tide for Clayton on Thursday night in a soggy 33-22 Greater Neuse River 4A Conference win against Harnett Central.
The Comets trailed 16-13 when Landon Leiser tossed a swing pass to Courtlyn Victrum that the speedster turned into a 52-yard touchdown. In the final minute of the second quarter, Clayton’s Derran Demps picked up a fumble and returned it 25 yards to give the Comets a 26-16 halftime lead.
The teams traded touchdowns in the second half as Clayton evened its GNRC record at 1-1 and move to 2-4 overall. Harnett Central dropped to 1-5 and 0-2.
“I was pleased with what I saw,” Clayton coach Randy Pinkowski said. “I was glad to see the defense step up and get a score. The ball slipped off (the Harnett Central quarterback’s) hand. We scooped and scored. If you take that one off the board and it’s a little tighter ballgame.”
Despite a rain that was heavy for much of the game, Clayton was able to pass for 153 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Comets’ final score came on a 5-yard pass from Leiser to sophomore Devin Carter that capped a clinching TD drive for Clayton with 3:06 left in the game.
Demps’ fumble recovery. With the game tight late in the first half, the touchdown return was a back-breaker for Harnett Central. Trojans quarterback Tyler Ammons went back to pass and the ball slipped out of his hand as he prepared to throw. Demps went 25 yards for a score that made it 26-16.
“Anytime you turn it over and the other team scores, it’s not good,” Harnett Central coach Dave Thomas said. “Overall, we played pretty well but just kept giving up big plays at the wrong time.”
They said it
“It’s a new season right now,” Pinkowski said. “This time of year anything can happen. The Greater Neuse seems to be kind of a tossup right now. … To be sitting 1-1 in the conference and having played fairly well on a wet night feels pretty good.”
Three who mattered
Clayton’s Courtlyn Victrum: The junior running back was a workhorse for the Comets, rushing for 82 yards on 19 carries and running for two scores. He also took a simple swing pass and turned it into a 52-yard score with a burst down the right sideline.
Clayton’s Landon Leiser: The Comets quarterback passed for 153 yards and a pair of touchdowns on a soggy night when numerous passes were dropped.
Harnett Central’s Zaheed Stubbs: The sophomore running back scored all three Trojans touchdowns on runs of 3, 6 and 6 yards and finished with 72 yards on 15 carries.