Nov 26, 2011
Every time Garner needed a play throughout the regular season and first three weeks of the playoffs, the Trojans got one. More often than not, running backs Demetrius Fairley and Juwan Moye were responsible for them.
That wasn't an option Friday night against the Buccaneers from Jack Britt High School in Fayetteville. The Bucs, 11-2 and a perennial power in the eastern part of the state, decided they weren't going to let Moye or Fairley, who both have over 1,000 yards, beat them.
It didn't matter.
Thanks to a career night by quarterback Vincent Jeffries, two touchdown catches by tight end Tim Thorb and a pick-six by corner Jarvis Shelton, Garner held off a game Jack Britt team on its way to a 34-27 win in the 4-AA Eastern Regional final.
It was the kind of win that's tough to explain, even for Garner's players and coaches. But in the end, it was a win, and that was all that mattered.
With the victory, Garner (15-0) advances to the 4-AA State Championship game to take on the Greensboro Page Pirates, who took down Mallard Creek 41-27 Friday night. The Trojans and Pirates (14-0), who have combined for 29 wins and no losses, will face off at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem Dec. 4 at 3 p.m.
Garner head coach Nelson Smith, who has been to the state championship game twice as an assistant coach, wasn't sure how to describe his team's win over Britt. He was just proud.
"They showed a lot of heart because they kept battling back and battling back, on both sides of the ball," Smith said. "You have to give Jack Britt a lot of credit, they played a great game. But our kids, we just kept battling, that's all I can say."
Jack Britt battled all night too. After being down much of the night, Jack Britt tied the game at 27 with 10:02 left in the fourth quarter when running back Lindon Watkins (26 carries, 99 yards) scored from one yard out and added a two-point conversion.
Garner's defense held strong for the next two Jack Britt possessions, eventually giving Garner's offense a final chance with under three minutes to play and the game still tied at 27.
Led by Jeffries (12 of 21, 268 yards, 3 TDs), the Trojans found a rhythm, marching the length of the field in just four plays to take a lead they wouldn't relinquish after he hits Thorb down the middle of the field from 16 yards out.
With 1:27 to play in the game, Garner finally had a lead it wouldn't relinquish. After Jack Britt failed to convert a 4th down play on its next possession, the game was all but over. Garner kneeled the ball three times, punted, and let the final seconds run off as a wild celebration broke out along the Garner sideline.
"There wasn't one set individual tonight," Smith said. "They all just played. They only had one goal this year, and that was to get to the state championship. The kids worked their tails off."
Smith credited Britt's defense for shutting down Garner's vaunted rushing attack, but also credited his Trojans for battling and finding a way to win the game. Moye and Fairley had just 63 combined yards on 29 carries, not a formula that would normally lead to a Garner victory.
"Jeffries did a great job on that last drive, made a couple of big throws," Smith said. "Team effort, both sides of the ball. What can you say?"
Garner took an early 7-0 lead when Fairley found pay dirt from 2 yards out with 4:50 left in the first quarter. Jack Britt answered, scoring back-to-back touchdowns early in the second quarter to go up 12-7 with 8:43 left before halftime.
Jeffries' first touchdown pass to Thorb, an 11-yard strike, gave Garner a 14-12 lead with 3:46 before halftime.
That lead grew to 21-12 in the first three minutes of the second half when corner Jarvis Shelton returned an interception 59 yards for a touchdown.
Watkins pulled Britt to within two points late in the third quarter when he scored his second touchdown of the night, from four yards out. Watkins would tie the game early in the fourth with a 1-yard run and two-point conversion, capping a night of hard-nosed running.
It was that sort of effort from both teams that entertained a packed house at Trojan Stadium Friday night. Garner punched, Britt counter-punched. In the end, the Trojans were still standing, ready to continue their season next week against Greensboro Page.
"It'd be a great thing to bring a title back to Wake County," Smith said. "Wake County football doesn't get a lot of credit. I'm proud of our kids and I'm proud of Garner High School."