The 2014 campaign has been nothing less than a roller-coaster ride for Clayton’s football team.
From a heartbreaking, season-opening loss to a dramatic last-second victory, followed by a pair of disappointing outings in the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference, the Comets have endured the gamut of emotions.
For six minutes in Friday night’s 40-26 victory over first-year varsity team and winless conference rival Rolesville, everything seemed to go against the Comets, as they fumbled away the opening kickoff and committed several penalties to help the Rams acquire an early 6-0 lead.
But as the game progressed, the Comets steadily pulled away with the aid of a somewhat stingy defense, a dominating offensive line and the athletic prowess of Eric Hoy and Blake Joyner.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
Hoy rushed for 61 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries and passed for another, while Joyner added one rushing touchdown as he gained 93 yards on 16 carries and hauled in a 36-yard TD strike among a six-catch, 118-yard effort.
But coach Randy Pinkowski said that similar efforts from that duo will be critical for the Comets during the upcoming trio of games to compete the regular season. There were more variables Clayton would have to depend on, he added.
Along with the stinginess of the defense, similar efforts from the offensive line would be necessary - opponents will be honing in on Hoy and Joyner.
“A lot of guys put forth a great effort tonight.” Pinkowski said. “The offensive line blocked really well, as they have all year.
“What Eric (Hoy) and Blake (Joyner) did, it doesn’t get done without those big guys up front.”
Pinkowski said the overall team effort was a great improvement over the previous three weeks, including the previous week’s dismantling of the Comets by GNRC-leading Garner, a 63-10 defeat.
“I think they’re starting to get things figured out a little bit,” Pinkowski said. “It doesn’t hurt to have couple of skilled athletes out there like Eric and Blake standing behind them that they have to protect.”
Pinkowski said the Comets had gone through it all this season, and are learning they can’t rely on the big play. They area also learning not to let the big plays against them get them down.
“We are a fourth-quarter built team,” Pinkowski said. “They have to get used to going head to the next play, not dwell on the previous play.
“Just go on to the next play, not on the last play. If something happens, don’t dwell on it just get to the next play and the next play and then next play.
“They learned tonight that if they worried about that first play, it could affect you all night and play badly the rest of the night. Or they could forget about it, and play the next 47 minutes as perfectly as they could, that mistake does not kill you.”