Northern scored on all four of its second-half possessions and defeated East Wake 40-35 in a barn-burner at Durham County Memorial Stadium Friday.
The win advances the No. 8 Knights (6-6) to the second round of the NCHSAA 4A playoffs, where they will face top-seeded D.H. Conley, a 49-35 winner over New Bern.
No. 9-seeded East Wake (7-5) had a final chance, starting on their own 20 yard line with 41 seconds left. Quarterback Tripp Harrington picked up a short fourth down at the East Wake 30, but that was followed by a couple of Warriors penalties.
On the final play, Harrington managed 28 yards before the Knights caught up with East Wake’s attempts to lateral out a miracle.
Northern got second half scores from De’shi Atkins (a 78-yard pass from QB Luke Fenlon) Domineke McNeill (30-yard Fenlon pass), a 6-yard Fenlon run and a 26-yard pass from Fenlon to Johnathan Branch, the final score of the game.
East Wake’s Jake Ellington disrupted the missed extra point after Fenlon’s scoring run and the Warriors denied McNeill’s 2-point conversion after Branch’s touchdown catch.
The Warriors led 28-21 with 4:40 left in the third on a 6-yard pass from Harrington to Malik Freeman and regained the lead at 35-34 with 6:26 left in the game on Harrington’s 17-yard strike to Chris Ajagbawa.
Harrington finished 18 for 24 for 182 yards and three TDs passing, and added 193 yards on 26 carries, including a 10-yard touchdown run for East Wake’s first score. He found Tyler Burton on an 8-yard pass and Mikekale Engles ran in the final first-half score from 12 yards out for East Wake, which led 21-14 at the break.
Northern was led by McNeill with 18 carries for 121 yards and also opened scoring on a 32-yard rush. Fenlon, the Knights’ quarterback, went 8 for 13 for 225 yards.
The Knights gained some early momentum and a 14-7 lead on Jalon Redmond’s interception returned for a touchdown with 2:23 left in the first quarter.