KNIGHTDALE - With a stable of runningbacks and a sound defense, Knightdale showed in its opener Friday night this could be the season the Knights make some noise, taking a 35-16 non-conference win over Millbrook.
Millbrook lost its second straight game. Last week the Wildcats played strong defense in a 13-9 loss to Southeast Raleigh, but coach Clarence Inscore’s team lost four defensive starters in the loss and Knightdale established the run early and stayed there the whole game.
"We want to be a power running team and we weren’t going to be cutesy and out-formation them. We just wanted to line up, this is what we do and here we come," said Knightdale coach Rob Senseney.
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By the end of the game, the Knights amassed 368 yards on 46 carries. Junior starting runningback Marcell Johnson had 62 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, all in the first half. Another junior Nathaniel Harvey came in and picked up 184 yards on 18 carries with touchdown runs of 12 and 14 yards. Chris Malone, a third junior added 55 more yards and two touchdowns and junior Marquavious Johnson rushed for 64 yards.
"Marcell tweaked something and we decided to keep him out after halftime and Nate Harvey had a heck of a game," Senseney said. "Malone came in and ran some and we’ve got two other tailbacks who are banged up and we’re looking to get back. We feel with our offense we need mutiple tailbacks and those kids understand sharing the ball."
Marquavious Johnson got things going early for the Knights with a 35 yard punt return to set up the first score, a 19-yard run by Marcell Johnson. After Millbrook answered with a 27-yard field goal by Jarrett Cervi, Knghtdale got touchdowns from Harvey and Malone for a 21-3 halftime lead.
Millbrook quarterback Lamar Harris threw for 161 yards, but Daminick Wilkins turned in the big play of the game for the Wildcats, a 64-yard touchdown run on the final play of the third quarter that cut the lead to 21-10. But the Millbrook defense couldn’t stop the Knights from getting two more touchdowns to wrap up the win.
Blocking up front for the Knights were tackles Tyler Thomas and Carl Hunter, guards Harris Duncan and Tyler Palochak and center Michael Richardson.
"A lot of them are back from last year," Senseney said. "Duncan Harris is a sophmore and we feel he’s one of the best linemen we’ve seen and he’s an all-conference returner and with Tyler Thomas we feel we can establish the run and play our game.
"Defensively we bent but didn’t break, got some stops. The effort is there. We opened up with our defense. We want to put them on the field first," Senseney said. "And to beat Millbrook, a traditional team year-in and year-out. They’re well-coached and a class team."
Millbrook coach Inscore, though, saw his team take a step back from its opening performance.
"Definitely," Inscore said. "We were missing some guys but that’s no excuse. The guys who play have to step. Offensively we did some thing, but were just too inconsistent. Knightdale is definitely an improved team with some talented players out there."