For the first time in program history, West Johnston is moving on to the second round of the NCHSAA football playoffs.
Alex Brewington scored a pair of defensive touchdowns as the host Wildcats overcame an early double-digit deficit in a 34-16 victory over Cardinal Gibbons on Friday in a 4A East first-round contest.
West Johnston (7-5), the seventh seed in the East region, will visit second-seeded New Hanover in a second-round game next week.
“To take this step, against a team like Cardinal Gibbons that’s physical, strong and very well-coached, is a huge step for our program moving forward.” West Johnston coach Jimmy Williams said.
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Brewington returned a fumble by Gibbons quarterback Jack Biestek 55 yards for a touchdown that put West Johnston ahead to stay, 14-10, with 1 minute, 43 seconds remaining in the first quarter. In the third quarter, Brewington intercepted a pass from Biestek and returned it 35 yards for another score to make it 31-10 with 5:37 left.
Brewington, a junior safety, was pressed into starting duty Friday night due to injuries.
“It was a big win for us, our first playoff win as a program, and I just wanted to step up for my team,” Brewington said.
The game started ominously for West Johnston, as Gibbons (7-5) dominated much of the early going.
The Crusaders went 66 yards on just six plays – all on the ground – on its opening drive to take a 7-0 lead, Biestek running it in from 9 yards out nearly three minutes into the game.
Gibbons then recovered an onside kick near midfield, eventually settling for a 39-yard field goal by Mark Schachte to make it 10-0 with 4:01 left in the opening quarter, before taking over deep in Wildcats territory after recovering a fumble at the 35 on West Johnston’s first play from scrimmage.
However, on the very next play, Biestek was hit as he threw a pass, the wobbly ball intercepted by lineman Jalen Pulley and returned 60 yards to the Gibbons 10. One play later, West Johnston’s Tony Mack ran it for the touchdown to trim Gibbons’ lead to 14-10.
Moments later, Brewington would put West Johnston ahead for good, and the Wildcats defense took care of the rest.
“The defense in general was great, defensive coach Brian Roach and the staff had a great plan,” Williams said. “Once we got some momentum, it felt like we can win it and the defense played lights out the rest of the night.”