Athens Drive overcame a spirited effort by the Cary Imps and held on for a 15-10 Southwest Wake Athletic Conference victory on Friday.
Otumos Payemanu ran for a score and threw a touchdown, including the go-ahead score early in the final period. The Jaguars (4-7 overall, 3-4 SWAC) finished the year in fifth place in the Southwest Wake.
The Imps (0-11, 0-7) were held winless, but pushed Athens to the brink and held a one point lead entering the final period.
Trailing 10-9, Payemanu led the Jaguars after a 25-yard punt return by senior Jamie Barnes set the ball up in Cary territory.
Payemanu tossed a 5-yard touchdown to senior Brock Martin on the second play of the fourth quarter. Athens missed the PAT.
“Our record doesn’t really reflect the effort these kids put in all season,” said Athens head coach Chris Martin. “We played a schedule where five teams had eight or more wins, but our kids battled every game to the end.”
Cary took the lead in the third quarter when Jack Long booted a 32-yard field goal.
It looked like it could be the Imps’ night, as they had held the Jaguars on a goal line stand to end the first half, recovered a muffed punt to set up the go-ahead field goal, and had held Athens three other times when the Jaguars crossed midfield.
Athens’ defense stiffened in the final quarter though, holding Cary to a pair of three-and-outs to ice the game.
“Even though we didn’t win this year, these boys never gave up and stayed brothers,” said Cary head coach Kurt Glendenning. “The lesson of this season is that you are going to face adversity in life, and these kids showed they are good guys who won’t point fingers and who will persevere.”
Athens led 9-0 early, but Cary got on the board when sophomore L.J. Johnson scored on a 2-yard run at the 5:41 mark of the second quarter. Johnson’s run capped a 60-yard, 11-play drive.
Athens looked ready to add a score before halftime, but Josh Humphrey and Noah Goldman stopped Payemanu on a key third down. Then the Imps forced an incomplete pass to trail just 9-7 at intermission.
Barnes led the Jaguars with 130 yards rushing on 25 carries. Jackson Wetherby suffered a serious knee injury after catching a tough pass for Athens in the second quarter.