The No. 6 seeded East Wake Warriors exceeded the expectations of coach John Poulnott during a 48-14 win against No. 11 West Johnston in the opening round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs Friday.
“This is beyond what I had figured,” Poulnott said. “I thought it would have been a struggle. West Johnston is a good team and played us well (during the regular season), so I expected it to be a tight ballgame. We just had some guys make some big plays.”
East Wake (10-2) led 34-0 at the half after scoring during the second quarter on runs of 1 and 11 yards by quarterback Tripp Harrington and passes from Harrington to Tyler Burton (80 yards) and Greg Taylor (33 yards).
Harrington and Taylor hooked up again during the fourth quarter on a 26-yard touchdown pass, and Burton capped scoring with an 82-yard kickoff return with two minutes to play. Harrington was 10-for-19 for 209 yards passing.
Warriors running back Damontay Rhem finished with 172 yards on 17 carries, including a 2-yard run that opened scoring.
West Johnston (8-4) got on the board midway through the third quarter on a 20-yard pass from Cameron Williams to Noah Liles. Williams finished 11-for-27 for 120 yards.
Tony Mack gave the Wildcats their other score on a 4-yard run with 2 minutes, 20 seconds remaining.
While West Johnston held the Warriors scoreless for the first 16 minutes of the second half, the East Wake defense limited the Wildcats by coming up with two interceptions and two fumble recoveries during the final two quarters. The Warriors were able to score off one of the turnovers.
“We talked at the half about not being complacent because (the Wildcats) have a lot of pride and they’re not going to come out and sit the second half out,” Poulnott said.
East Wake will go on the road next Friday to face No. 3 seed Scotland County, a 35-21 winner against No. 14 Greenville Conley.
“It’s going to be a long trip and we hope to make a big show,” Poulnott said.