Cleveland completed a wild comeback in its first ever meeting with Garner Friday night, rallying from three touchdowns down against the Triangle’s most successful team over the past three seasons for a 45-44 victory Friday night.
It was Garner’s first regular-season loss in 30 games, dating back to Aug. 27, 2010.
The Rams trailed 38-17 with 7:39 to play in the third quarter after a 13-yard TD run by Garner’s Raekwon Britton.
Cleveland (1-1) scored the game’s next 21 points to pull even at 38 on a 1-yard TD run by senior back Isaac Martin with 9:40 to play in the fourth quarter.
Garner (1-1) still led 38-31 late in the third when the first of several key bounces went the Rams’ way. Cleveland’s Delany Ahola picked off a Garner pass in the end zone that had bounced out of the hands of a Garner receiver.
Cleveland took advantage, with Aaron Farmer connecting with Patrick Jesequel on a 44-yard pass to the 1-yard-line setting up Martin’s score.
The Rams got the ball back after a rare defensive hold, but Garner’s Markus Mosley forced a fumble that the Trojans recovered at the Cleveland 5-yard-line. Three plays later, Nyheim Hines dove for the right pylon to put Garner back on top at 44-38. The Trojans couldn’t connect on the extra point.
Martin, who finished with 240 yards rushing on 31 carries and three TDs, and Farmer, who ran for 169 yards and two TDs on 22 carries, covered all 65 yards on the ground on the Rams’ game-winning drive.
Garner’s defense held Martin for little gain on two plays from inside the 5 but he took a timely option pitch from Farmer on third down, getting around the left corner for a touchdown, tying the game at 44.
It would have stayed that way if Farmer, the extra point holder, didn’t get a bouncing snap down for Paul Johnson to somehow safely kick between four diving Garner defenders for a 45-44 lead with 1:02 to play.
Hines, who had 258 yards rushing on 25 carries, made a late switch with Britton before the Johnson could kick off so the sky kick ended up in Hines’ hands. He jetted around the left sideline for a 44-yard return that gave Garner the ball at the Cleveland 30-yard-line with 55 seconds to play.
Cleveland’s Lance Kirby pulled Hines down for a 4-yard loss on the first play of the drive, then pressure from the Ram defensive front forced two incompletions from Hudson.
Garner’s last chance slipped away on the next play when Hudson’s pass for a diving Jaykwon Harris at the goal line ended up inches away from Harris’ hands.