James Kenan wins a nailbiter


Wallace-Rose Hill's Johnnie Glaspie fumbles as James Kenan's Tyler Pugh makes a hit during their game in Warsaw on Friday, Aug. 30, 2013. The Tigers held off the Bulldogs to win 19-18. (Photo by Paul Stephen)


 

WARSAW | James Kenan has earned early buzz as a state football title contender, in large part because of an explosive rushing attack led by N.C. State commit Marcelias Sutton. But the Tigers turned to special teams and defense to deliver a 19-18 win over rival Wallace-Rose Hill on Friday night.

James Kenan took the lead for good on a 95-yard kickoff return by junior JaQuan Williams with 8:33 left in the third quarter and held on thanks to timely defensive plays and clock-control offense. The Tigers didn't score an offensive touchdown over the game's final 29 minutes in a battle of former conference foes.

"It's a rivalry game, so it's always emotional," senior quarterback Dominique Barnes said. "Come the fourth quarter, we just had to tough it out."

James Kenan (2-0) led 13-0 lead after Barnes hooked up with senior Antonio Smith on a 27-yard touchdown in the second quarter but never found much offensive rhythm with Sutton limited to 39 rushing yards on 13 carries.

Wallace-Rose Hill (1-1) hit back with two touchdowns before the break. Sophomores Keyshawn Canady and Alex Lisane scored rushing touchdowns, with classmate Johnnie Glaspie's second interception of the game between them.

On their first possession of the second half, the Bulldogs took their first lead on Canady's 21-yard run, but it only lasted 13 seconds. Williams took the ensuing kickoff at his own 5-yard line and jetted straight up the middle untouched to the end zone.

"I thought we couldn't have played any better except for the kickoff," Wallace Rose-Hill coach Joey Price said. "We knew they were mighty good and mighty fast back there, so there's no excuses."

Last fall, James Kenan's 21-20 win over Wallace-Rose Hill to close the regular season came along with the Tri-County Conference title. Realignment changed the stakes of the matchup, but the final minutes this time still took on playoff intensity.

Wallace-Rose Hill had the apparent go-ahead score taken off the board by a holding penalty in the third quarter and only ran one play in James Kenan territory in the fourth. Smith helped swing field position for the Tigers with two 50-plus-yard punts in the final quarter.

James Kenan chewed more than five minutes off the clock with their last drive and finally gave the ball back to the Bulldogs at their own 25-yard line with 12 seconds left. The Tigers could finally celebrate when senior T.J. Fullwood intercepted the ensuing Hail Mary attempt.

"We had the one-point lead, so the clock was our friend," coach Ken Avent, Jr. said. "We just wanted that thing to run there in the fourth quarter. We really weren't trying to move the ball a whole lot. We just wanted the clock to run."



Eric Detweiler: 343-2261

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