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James Kenan hits stride in shootout win

WARSAW | James Kenan fell behind early against visiting Red Springs Friday night in the third round of the Class 1AA football playoffs. But the Tigers turned up the volume on their running game and ran away with a 68-41 victory.

Unbeaten James Kenan, now 13-0, will play host to Southwest Onslow next Friday in the East Region final.

Tigers running back Marcelias Sutton finished with 233 rushing yards on 24 carries and three TDs. And teammate Ja'Quan Williams sprinted for three touchdowns and 211 yards on 19 carries.

"Our offense was just able to just pound the ball all night long and protect the football," James Kenan coach Ken Avent said. "And our offensive line has been unbelievable. They had a phenomenal night."

The Tigers wrapped up a wild, somewhat defenseless first half with a 35-21 lead. Williams and Sutton both scored two touchdowns and racked up big numbers on the ground at the break; Williams with 127 and Sutton with 170.

The teams scored on the first five times they got the ball. Williams found the end zone on his first carry of the game, going 58 yards to tie the game at 7-7.

But the Red Devils got 21 points in the first quarter, including Christopher McGeachey's 85-yard kickoff return to lead 21-14.

Red Springs then stuffed James Kenan at the 1-yard line, but was called for intentional grounding in the end zone on its ensuing possession.

The safety made the score 21-16, and the Red Devils tried an on-side kick on the free kick. But James Kenan recovered and scored the next 46 points in the game.

The Tigers set the halftime score on quarterback Dominique Barnes' 23-yard touchdown toss to TJ Fullwood, who also opened the second half with a 60-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

The offensive fireworks in the final quarter for James Kenan featured a 56-yard scoring run by Sutton and a 60-yard touchdown run by John Winston.

The Tigers defense also picked off four passes.