Knightdale enters Week 6 in better shape, record-wise, than any other football team in the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference, but needing perhaps more than any other team to stay in good shape, health-wise, to see continued success.
“We’re a 4A school with 2A numbers, so we have to go into every game healthy and strong because we just don’t have the numbers this year,” coach Cedric Dargan said Friday, after his team barely held off a fourth-quarter rally by Harnett Central to win 27-25.
Dargan preached to his players on the importance of getting healthy, and staying healthy, after the win over the Trojans.
“We’ve probably got 35 people on the roster,” he said. “We’ve got to fight to stay healthy – people who are banged up need to get treatment because we’ve got to have everyone available next week, and the next week.”
That’s especially true with the Knights (4-1, 1-0 GNRC) entering the meat of the conference season. Along the stretch they’ll face perennial power Garner, a Southeast Raleigh team that upset Garner on Friday, and the always anticipated showdown with region rival East Wake, on Oct. 30.
Before those games, Knightdale this Friday faces a test at Rolesville, which stunned West Johnston 44-14 in their league opener last week.
Dargan continues to stick to his week-by-week mindset, as promised since before the season began.
“We don’t see ourselves as 4-1,” he said. “Our outlook is no different from when we started the season. We’re 1-and-0 this week, and next week we’ll look to go 1-and-0 again, that’s our outlook.”
Big losses not keeping Rams down
Last season, Rolesville managed just one win, a 14-7 triumph over Knightdale. This year, the Rams enter their contest against the revenge-minded Knights with a winning record.
Rolesville (3-2, 1-0 GNRC) has shown the ability to bounce back after tough defeats this season. The Rams followed a 55-0 loss to Terry Sanford with a pair of victories and then battled back after a difficult 48-0 loss to rival Wake Forest with a big 44-14 win at West Johnston.
“They’ve shown up every day and worked hard,” said Rolesville coach Jermaine Evans. “We’ve gotten better and I’m proud especially with them coming off of a 48-0 loss to Wake Forest. It was rivalry game and it was really tough to come back out and get up ... but now it’s conference time.”
This week, the Rams will have the chance to see how they respond to having the target placed squarely on their backs.
In the Rams’ big win at West Johnston Friday, the offense racked up almost 500 yards of offense (324 passing, 168 rushing), the defense picked off three passes and held the Wildcats to a 1-for-14 conversion rate on third down.
And although the special teams unit showed some positive results – solid punt returns from Colby Jackson and a 46-yard punt from Andrew Bardsley – there is some room for improvement there that could be key in closer games down the stretch.
Out of seven extra point attempts, the Rams converted just twice with two kicks being blocked and three others missing their mark. With the likes of Knightdale and Southeast Raleigh on Rolesville’s schedule the next two weeks, those points might be the difference between a win or a loss.
Plays of the week
▪ Already ahead one score, Bunn took charge in its 62-6 win over Louisburg when Celik Curtis roared through the line for a quarterback sack that resulted in a fumble. Omar Rosa scooped up the ball and rumbled 23 yards for a touchdown that gave the Wildcats an early 14-0 cushion less than five minutes into the game.
▪ Clayton atoned for an early fumble with a 53-yard pass from Landen Leiser to Devin Carter on its second possession, but the rest of the first half was all Warriors, who won 44-14. Mikekale Engles scored from two yards out on the final play of the first quarter to help tie it at 7-7. Tripp Harrington in the second quarter connected on a 33-yard touchdown pass to Chris Ajagbawa, followed by a safety and then Harrington’s second scoring pass to Ajagbawa from 3 yards out.
▪ Knightdale took a 27-3 lead over Harnett Central in the third quarter after touchdown runs of 24 and 58 yards by quarterback Andre Willis.
▪ The West Johnston defense clamped down after allowing Rolesville to find pay dirt on each of its first two drives and helped the Wildcats stay in the game. However, an interception late in the second quarter deep in its own end led to a Carnaji Andrews rushing touchdown from 3 yards out with just 1.5 seconds remaining before halftime.
They said it
▪ “The big thing was that they are so strong in the linebacker position that we had to come out and throw the ball,” said Rolesville coach Jermaine Evans.
▪ “These are high school kids. We got up 27-3 and they took their foot off the gas and let them come back into the game,” said Knightdale coach Cedric Dargan. “(Harnett Central) outworked us the second half – they played with great effort and we didn’t. It had nothing to do with conditioning or being tired, we just didn’t play with great effort in the second half. (Stubbs) is a heck of a back, he’s a downhill runner, and I can say all week I wasn’t worried about their spread stuff. I was worried about him in the Wildcat.”
▪ “We give up big plays on third down a lot, and that was reoccurring in the first quarter,” said East Wake coach John Poulnott said. “But we were able to finally find our niche.”
▪ “When you look at football in Franklin County, all of the teams (Franklinton, Louisburg and Bunn) have been pretty good lately,” said Bunn coach David Howle. “Over the last 15-20 years, our kids have taken a lot of pride in being able to get a victory against a county rival. It’s important to these kids because the communities up here are so close together.’’
Friday night heroes
Carnaji Andrews, Rolesville: Andrews went 4 for 4 for 75 yards on the Rams’ opening drive of the game which ended with a 10-yard TD pass to Andrew Debernardo. Andrews finished with 324 yards passing and accounted for four touchdowns: three through the air and one on the ground.
Colby Cooper, Rolesville: The 5-foot-11 senior wide receiver was Andrews’ preferred target. Cooper consistently beat one-on-one coverage, hauled in difficult passes and made would-be tacklers miss on his way to a huge game. Cooper reeled in seven of Andrews’ passes for 151 yards and a touchdown.
Tripp Harrington, East Wake: The senior passed for 170 yards and three TDs and added 81 yards on the ground.
“We had a few mishaps early, but we got it going,” Harrington said.
Cardarius Hartsfield, East Wake: The senior carried six times for 77 yards.
Tauraz Williams, Knightdale: He accounted for the Knights’ first two scores, rushing in from 9 yards out for the first and hauling in a 21-yard TD pass from Willis as the buzzer signaled halftime with the Knights ahead 13-3.
Andre Willis, Knightdale: Willis picked up where he and Williams left off before the break, dealing pain for the Trojans on scoring rushes of 24 and 58 yards in the third quarter.
Celik Curtis, Bunn: The sophomore defensive end forced one fumble, recovered another and registered three quarterback sacks to spark the Wildcats’ defense. The first-year varsity starter paced Bunn with nine tackles.
Davante Caldwell, Bunn: Caldwell, a senior running back, made the most of his four carries on the night. He scored from 8, 90 and 9 yards out and finished with 108 total yards.
Tevin Perry, Bunn: Perry, who shares backfield duties with Caldwell, picked up 83 yards on five carries to go with one touchdown.
By the numbers
2: Points scored by Knightdale’s DJ Conner on a conversion run in the third, the number of extra-point kicks Harnett Central blocked and the exact difference in the final score.
3: Times Knightdale capitalized on Trojan turnovers by scoring on their ensuing possession, including both of Willis’ rushing TDs and Tauraz Williams’ rushing TD.
4: Turnovers by Harnett Central: a fumble recovered by Knightdale’s Corey Wiggins in the first quarter, an interception by Jhasire Morgan in the second, an INT by Conner in the third and a fumble recovered by Ahmaad Williams on the Trojans’ next possession.
6: Number of consecutive passes Rolesville quarterback Carnaji Andrews opened up the game with to help lead the Rams to the early lead.
7: The number of possessions Bunn had Friday – and the Wildcats scored on each one of them. BHS’ other two scores came courtesy of a fumble return and a kickoff return.
58: Yardage of the longest play of the Knightdale-Harnett Central game, Willis’ breakaway down the left sideline that was the first play after Ahmaad Williams’ fumble recovery.
98: Yards rushing by East Wake’s backup QB Tyshawn Milam.
125-26: Louisburg has been outscored by a combined 125-26 in its Franklin County rivalry games with Franklinton and Bunn this season.
131: Number of yards rushing Rolesville’s Josh Branch contributed with 88 of those coming in the second half. Branch found the end zone twice.
251: Yards total offense for East Wake’s Tripp Harrington.
308: Bunn amassed 308 total yards Friday, 289 of which came on the ground.
Michael Held, Mike Potter and Geoff Neville contributed to this report.
Week 6: Friday’s Games
7 p.m. starts: Garner (3-2, 0-1) at East Wake (3-2, 1-0); Knightdale (4-1, 1-0) at Rolesville (3-2, 1-0)
7:30 p.m. starts: Corinth Holders (5-0) at Wilson Fike (3-2); Bunn (3-2) at Nash Central (1-4)