You got the feeling that whoever came up with the first defensive stop would prove victorious.
It took until the fourth quarter but eventually Holly Springs did just that and walked away with a 45-39 back-and-forth win over visiting Apex Friday. The win vaulted the Golden Hawks (6-5, 3-4) into the playoffs while Apex (5-6, 2-5) will now need a Hail Mary to get a postseason berth.
Nehemiah Harris rushed for 226 yards and four touchdowns for Holly Springs but it was actually the defense that told the story.
Entering the fourth quarter, Apex had scored a touchdown on every possession and yet still trailed 38-32.
But on the Cougars’ first three drives of the final quarter, the Holly Springs defense finally came alive to force a punt, a turnover on downs inside the red zone and recover a fumble to pull away down the stretch. Not that the Apex defense was having any better fortune.
The Cougar punt to begin the final period was the first stop by either team all game as the Golden Hawks strung together five touchdowns and a field goal on the first six drives of their own.
The teams combined for 934 yards of total offense, 11 touchdown drives of 60 yards or more and 10 lead changes.
Apex held its last lead at 32-31 late in the third quarter before Harris scored on back-to-back touchdown runs for the Golden Hawks. Holly Springs then built the biggest lead of the game at 45-32 with just over two minutes to play but Apex answered right back with a 65-yard touchdown pass from Grayson Boyd to Ian Boyd on the first play of the ensuing possession.
After an onsides kick attempt failed, the Golden Hawks picked up two first downs on the ground to run out the clock and defeat Apex for the fourth straight year.
Tray Staten complemented Harris with 113 yards and a touchdown for Holly Springs while Isaiah Totten scampered for 158 yards and two scores for Apex to put three running backs over the century mark.
Grayson Boyd threw for 190 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for a 68-yard touchdown for the Cougars.