South Johnston had a near-perfect game plan to defeat county rival Clayton Friday night but, in the end, the Trojans could not stop the picture perfect pass-and-catch as Eric Hoy launched the 43-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Kyle Gleisner as time expired for a wild 20-14 Comets win.
Hoy who dropped back to midfield for the final heave as the senior quarterback topssed a high-arching ball to Gleisner who lifted both arms high over his head to haul in the game-winner.
The duo attempted to hook up on the play before only to have a South Johnston defender tip the ball away from Gleisner at the last second.
Hoy had no hesitation in going right back to Gleisner, however, as the same fade route was called on the last play of the game.
“The first play, I saw Kyle (get open) and I stepped back to launch it and the defender made a great play,” Hoy said. “Next play, I looked back and Kyle got open again--the ball was a little under-thrown but Kyle made a great play and made me look good.”
South Johnston was the team that looked good early as the Trojans employed a punishing ground attack to keep the high-powered Clayton offense on the sideline.
Eric Bowles bulldozed his way for 170 rushing yards in the first half alone including touchdown runs of 49 and four yards to stake the visitors to a 14-6 lead late in the second quarter.
“Last week, we talked about starting faster and we came out tonight and had a great start,” South Johnston coach Hunter Jenks said. “We fought as hard as we could but we made some costly mistakes at some critical times. We’re going to learn from it and we’re just going to get better from it.”
With seven minutes remaining in the game and the two teams knotted at 14 points apiece, South Johnston (0-3) moved the ball to the Clayton seven-yard line before a personal foul and an interception stopped the drive cold.
Then, on the Comets’ final drive, another Trojan personal foul set the Comets up near midfield to set up Hoy’s last second heroics.
Bowles finished his night with 208 rushing yards, netting just 38 more after the first half explosion, while quarterback DeParis Patterson threw for 60 yards and ran for 28 more.
After Bowles plowed in for the second of his two scores, Hoy and company moved the ball down the field to tie the game just before the half.
Two South Johnston facemask penalties kept the drive alive for the Comets and Hoy made the Trojans pay when he found Matt Newton in the corner of the end zone. Clayton made good on the two-point conversion to level the score headed into the half.
Hoy ended his night with 109 yards rushing on 20 carries but the 141 yards he amassed in the air might prove most critical to further success this year for the Comets (2-1).
“I think the thing that makes our offense go is that people are starting to have to respect Eric as a dual-threat,” Clayton coach Randy Pinkowski said. “He can run the ball but he can throw it on the money too.”