Leesville Road couldn’t find its rhythm Friday night as it followed big plays with costly penalties in the Pride’s 56-35 loss to Garner in the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4AA state football playoffs.
By Caryn Grant
GARNER -- Leesville Road couldn’t find its rhythm Friday night as it followed big plays with costly penalties in the Pride’s 56-35 loss to Garner in the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4AA state football playoffs.
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Even amid a late-game run, the Pride was unable to stop Garner, frustrating Leesville and resulting in lost yardage in various phases of the game.
Leesville had closed to within 42-35 before back-to-back holding and false start penalties pushed the Pride back to their own two yard line and eventually brought on a fourth-and-25 situation from their own five-yard line that led to a pick-six with 4:35 remaining.
The turnover came after a Pride 14-point run, in which Leesville recovered an onside kick and came up with the score on the other end to close to within seven.
After fighting back to within one score, the turnover put the momentum back into the hands of Garner, and pushed the Pride back 14 points.
“The team that was going to win tonight was the team that didn’t turn the ball over and didn’t make mistakes,” said Leesville coach Chad Smothers. “But that’s going to happen when you get behind and they’re rushing the passer.”
Junior Braxton Berrios had helped the Pride tighten the margin to open the second half with a 14-yard touchdown catch, bringing Leesville within two scores, 35-14.
On the ensuing Garner drive, Berrios picked off a Garner pass, giving the Pride the ball on the 34, but penalties again put Leesville on fourth down with 25 yards to go.
The Pride punted that time and the Trojans came up with another score, capitalizing on their possession and taking advantage of the Pride’s inability to capitalize on the other end.
Much of the damage had been done in the first half, with Garner rattling off five-straight possessions for touchdowns, taking advantage of a Pride fumble and moving the chains on third downs.
“The first half, not really getting off the field on third downs," Smothers said. "I think those first 21 points came on third downs, and then we had a roughing the passer on fourth down; you just can’t do that against this team,” Smothers said.