Wakefield’s offense was every bit as good as Garner’s on Friday night until it mattered most.
That’s when the Trojans’ defensive unit shined brightest, enabling Garner to advance to the third round of the 4AA football playoffs with a 37-7 victory at Trojan Stadium.
The Trojans (12-1) will host Panther Creek (11-2) in an eastern regional semifinal the day after Thanksgiving.
The Wolverines (7-6) drove inside of the Garner 20-yard-line three times on the night but could only get points on one of those occasions.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“Wakefield has a high-powered offense, but our defense played pretty well,” Garner coach Thurman Leach said. “We gave up some big plays, but we settled down when we needed to make big plays. That’s a team that can move the football. It took a great effort from our kids.”
Wakefield totaled 344 yards on the night, just 74 fewer than Garner.
The Trojan offense, meanwhile, dealt with a less than full strength Nyheim Hines about as well as could have been hoped. Hines, who has a sore knee, had 106 yards on 11 carries and ran for a TD, but had limited touches.
Garner’s supporting cast took on lead roles most of the night. Senior receiver Raekwon Britton caught a 47-yard touchdown pass on the first Trojan possession and later threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Jarvin Holder on a halfback option play at the end of the first half to push Garner’s lead to 28-0.
“It was something they drew up for me in practice after the coaches saw me throwing the ball around,” Britton said of his toss to a wide open Holder. “So they put it in the playbook for me, and Jarvin was able to get by the defense.”
Trojans’ quarterback Brodie West scrambled 28 yards for the second touchdown of the night after he missed practice time this week with an injury. The junior credited the Garner line with the offense’s production (312 yards rushing).
“It was all about our line,” West said. “The line just did a great job, even though we were running guys in and out who were banged up.”
Sophomore backs Dwayne Holloway and Collin Eaddy took on bigger roles, as Hines sat out the second half. Holloway ran for a season-high 132 yards on 14 carries and a TD.
“Our sophomores came in and did a heck of a job,” Leach said. “Dwayne Holloway and Collin Eaddy really grew up some tonight. They saw the holes well and gave us what we needed. And our three fullbacks did a great job: Tyreece Taylor, Nyquan Williams and Anthony Stephenson.”
Garner led 20-0 after Hines scored on a 3-yard run with 4:42 to play in the first half.
Wakefield was about to get out of the half down just three scores, but Garner’s Matthew Butler forced a Wolverine fumble that teammate Desmond Quinerly recovered at the Wakefield 38-yard-line with 45.1 seconds left in the half.
Britton hit Holder with his touchdown pass on the next play.
Holder ended Wakefield’s first drive of the second half with an interception, and Garner went on its first clock-churning drive of the second half. Wakefield’s Dawon Winston-Burnett recovered a Garner fumble to end that drive, setting up a 15-yard touchdown run by sophomore Matt McKay to cut the lead to 28-7.
Garner reeled off an eight-minute, 43-second drive on its next possession but couldn’t score. The defense did however, when Eaddy and Spinks sacked McKay in the end zone for a safety and a 30-7 lead.
Holloway’s 30-yard touchdown run followed.
Wakefield senior running back Kelton Whitehead ran for 139 yards on 22 carries in the loss.