It was a four-game series between Garner and Cleveland on Thursday night, according to Garner football coaches and players. Their goal was to play four 12-minute games. “Everything a quarter at the time,” as multiple Trojans phrased it.
The Trojans dominated three of those quarters and scored 30 unanswered points in a 44-21 victory over Cleveland at Trojan Stadium.
Standout back Nyheim Hines ran for four touchdowns and 183 yards on 15 carries. Meanwhile, the Garner defense had eight players make tackles for losses against a Ram offense that put up 56 points last week.
“We’ve started lining up and playing our assignments better,” said Garner linebacker Warren Messer, who had three tackles for losses. “That was our whole focus this week and tonight. Get in the right place, play your assignment and it will all take care of itself.”
Garner led 14-7 in the second quarter, but Cleveland was driving for a game-tying touchdown. The Rams moved the ball inside the 5-yard-line but lost a fumble through the end zone for a touchback, giving the ball back to Garner.
The Trojans scored on the ensuing possession – via a 10-yard Hines TD run, taking a 21-7 lead in the half.
“That was a big ‘mojo’ play right there,” Garner coach Thurman Leach said of the change of possession. “Instead of it being 14-all, we were able to get out of the half with a lead.”
The touchdown started a string of 30 straight Garner points as the Trojans started to grow up on offense with Brodie West and the Trojans receivers developing some consistency to balance Hines’ running game.
Garner (1-1) stuffed Cleveland on the first drive of the second half for a three-and-out, then marched on a 10-play scoring drive for a 28-7 lead after Hines’ 2-yard TD run.
Cleveland (1-1), which rallied to beat Garner 45-44 in a wild game last year, went three-and-out again on its next possession, and Garner’s Noah Giroux hit a 27-yard field goal to make the score 31-7.
Shawnya Banks ended the next Ram drive with an interception and a return of 32 yards to set up West’s 5-yard touchdown bootleg keeper with 10:42 to play.
Garner held Cleveland to only one play of 40 or more yards a week after the Rams rolled up more than 600 yards of offense.
“We cut way down on our mistakes and played good team football,” Leach said. “We played much better on defense against a really good Cleveland team and offense. That’s a football team you just hope to slow them down.”
Garner ran the lead to 44-7 after back-to-back tackles for losses by Nyquan Williams and Banks held Cleveland without points inside of the Trojan 5-yard-line.
Hines broke free on a 95-yard touchdown run on the next play for a 44-7 advantage.
Cleveland got a pair of late scores on matching 3-yard runs by Daquan Goodwin (17 carries 77 yards) and Aaron Farmer (20 carries, 64 yards) to cut the final margin to 44-21.
Corey Brown added 74 yards rushing on the night for Cleveland.
Garner jumped out to a 14-0 lead behind a 12-yard TD run from Hines and a 26-yard jaunt by Jarvin Holder on a reverse around the left side from Hines.
Cleveland cut the lead to 14-7 with 4:48 to play in the half when Farmer found Brown streaking open down the middle of the field for a 48-yard touchdown pass.
“It just took us some time to adjust to their speed,” said Cleveland coach Scott Riley. “In fact, I told the guys this week. ‘Don’t be surprised if we’re not down 14 points.’ And there we were, down 14 points. But we got our eyes adjusted to their speed and had the chance to tie it up.”
West was 7-of-13 for 158 yards passing for the Trojans. Holder led Garner with 65 yards receiving on three catches.