Collin Eaddy, like many Garner running backs before him, thrives when the football is pitched to him and has a couple of pulling linemen in front of him.
The senior got the call on a toss to the right side five times in the fourth-ranked Trojans’ Greater Neuse River 4A Conference clash with No. 17 Clayton Thursday night. He picked up exactly 100 yards on those five plays, including the game’s first touchdown and it was his running that started a dominant night for Garner.
In fact, the night went so well for the Trojans (7-1 overall, 4-0 conference) it must have seemed like everything they did was toss right to Clayton, which fell, 50-0.
Eaddy, who is still getting over a turf toe injury, finished with 138 yards rushing, 62 yards receiving and three total touchdowns as Garner turned a 12-0 lead into a 35-point lead over a three-plus minute stretch of the second quarter.
The shutout is Garner’s third straight and its second of the Comets (6-2, 3-1) in the past five years. (The first came in 2012.)
The Trojan defense frustrated Clayton with its talented and big defensive line and a secondary unit that limited standout Comet receiver Devin Carter (who entered the game with 57 catches on the season) to three catches on the night, none for more than 25 yards.
Garner forced two Clayton safeties on the night and Andreis Harris intercepted two passes, returning the second one 43 yards for a touchdown to put Garner up 43-0 in the third quarter.
Garner sophomore Davieon Carrington had three and a half sacks on the night, the first one forcing a safety on an intentional grounding call.
“We just kept going with the game plan,” Carrington said of the Trojans play. “Our whole mindset was to just keep working with each other, try not to miss tackles and keep our heads in the game.”
Carrington moved down into the box after playing much of the first quarter at strong safety. The move frees him up to help more in the run game and provide an extra dimension to the Trojans’ pass rush.
Garner standout lineman Matthew Butler said the Trojans have gone to using more three-man fronts to play to the defensive unit’s overall strengths.
“We’re running more three-man lines because our defensive back group is so deep,” Butler said. “That means on the defensive line, we’re going three against five every play and dealing with double- and triple-teams while other guys make the big plays, which can be frustrating at times. But it’s what we need to do to be our best as a unit right now.”
Clayton coach Hunter Jenks lamented the Comets’ ability to move the ball on the ground against that Garner defensive front.
“When they can line up against you with a three-man front against your offensive line and prevent you from running the ball, you’re in trouble,” Jenks said.
“The defense they can put on the field is really good. They’ve got tremendous cover guys and the defensive line is just amazingly talented. Garner had a great plan and they executed it well.”
Garner held the Comets to 154 yards of offense and held on two fourth down attempts inside of the 20-yard-line to keep the doughnut on the Clayton side of the scoreboard all night.
“Whatever the offense presents us with, we have to come up with a plan to deal with it,” Leach said. “That falls on coach (Chuck) Proffitt and coach (Corey) Lyons. They had a great plan and our kids executed tonight.
“Against this offense, you’ve got Carter who’s a tremendous talent and Robertson is very good with great speed. They present a really big challenge.”
The Comets entered the game on a six-game win streak and averaging 31 points a game, but found itself facing third-and-longs multiple times early in the game.
Garner’s attention to Carter did open up some underneath routes for Macaleb Robertson (seven catches for 98 yards), but the Comets couldn’t give quarterbacks Austin Cagle or Landen Leiser time enough to let the deep passing routes that Carter thrives on to develop.
Carter did just sneak over the 1,000-yard receiving mark on the season during the game with 39 yards to go with his 962 entering the contest.
Defensively, the Comets struggled to beat Garner’s blockers to the edge.
All in all, it was one forgettable night for Clayton, which entered the game still in the thick of the conference championship race.
“This is a complete forget about it game,” Jenks said. “It’s a rip the rearview mirror out of the car kind of night. We’ve got West Johnston up next in another big game and that’s a team that has a lot in common with Garner, so we’ve got to get ready for them now.”
The Comets get unbeaten West (7-0, 4-0) next Friday, while Garner visits the Wildcats a week later.