Garner and West Johnston were locked in a 14-14 tie with just seconds left in the first quarter Friday night. West Johnston had just burned Garner on a 39-yard touchdown pass to tie the score, and the matchup of two ranked teams from the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference looked to be developing into a battle.
The complexion of the game changed on one play, when Garner start Nyheim Hines grabbed the ensuing kickoff and raced 75 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the quarter.
Just like that, the fourth-ranked Trojans led 21-14 and were off and running to a 56-14 victory over No. 13 West Johnston (4-2, 1-1).
“That changed things,” West Johnston coach Jimmy Williams said of Hines’ return. “We weren’t supposed to kick to him. We worked all week on it. … It’s not that that one play won the game for them because we didn’t stop them offensively. I think that really was a turning point in the first half and put us behind the 8-ball.”
The Trojans (5-1, 2-0 GNRC) scored three second-quarter touchdowns – two by Hines – and led 42-14 at halftime.
“I just trusted my blocking (on the TD return),” Hines said. “We had a great blocking plan set up. I just had to hit the middle and then get to the sideline.”
Hines had good blocking all night, rushing for 202 yards and four touchdowns on 17 carries. That pushed his season totals to 1,135 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns on the ground.
“Those yards are a testament to my line,” Hines said. “I’m probably going to be taking them out for a steak soon.”
Hines had only three carries in the second half, his final run an 18-yard TD that made it 49-14. The highly-recruited senior scored on runs of 5, 16, 10 and 18 yards.
Garner quarterback Brodie West had a 29-yard touchdown pass to Michael Gilchrist and sneaked in from the 1 for another.
The final Garner score came on a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown by Gilchrist.
“(West Johnston) did a good job of coming out and playing hard,” Garner coach Thurman Leach said. “I’m pretty sure that (TD return) took some wind out of their sails and changed the complexion a little bit.”