by Becky Kimbrell-Norris
KNIGHTDALE — It didn’t take long to find out how Heritage High’s football team would respond after their disappointing 44-0 loss at Panther Creek.
One word comes to mind to describe the Huskies performance Friday night at Knightdale: resilient.
Heritage, trailing 22-10 with six minutes left in the third quarter, battled back time after time and ultimately came up big to defeat the home team Knights 23-22.
Quarterback Blake Walters connected with wide receiver Jalen Parson for six points and an extra point kick by Matt Sattler tightened Knightdale’s lead to 22-17 late in the third quarter.
With about six minutes remaining in the game, Husky defensive lineman Justin Nwachaku, picked off a pass from Knightdale quarterback Marquavious Johnson, setting up Heritage’s winning score.
Walters and Parson linked up again to put the Huskies in front and for good this time.
“I was extremely pleased with my team both offensively and defensively,” said Husky coach Jason McGeorge. “We were a little down coming out of halftime and then Knightdale took the lead and increased it.”
“We were able to get a huge play from Justin with his interception and that really changed our momentum,” McGeorge added. “We were able to score a touchdown off of that turnover and our team really got excited and it was just a great team win.”
But still it appeared to be the Knights game to win.
What would have been a 70 yard touchdown run by Knightdale quarterback Johnson with two minutes left in the game was nullified as a result of a holding call.
“Johnson is a great athlete and we knew we had to stop their first option,”McGeorge said. “They had some great counter punches, but we definitely wanted to control their running game.”
Heritage struck first and took a 3-0 lead on a field goal by Sattler with three minutes left in the first quarter.
A couple of plays later, defensive end Eric Thornton intercepted a Johnson pass, which led to a ten-yard touchdown run by Greg Clifton. Sattler’s point after kick put the Huskies up 10-0.
“We did have some good momentum early,” McGeorge said. “However Knightdale was able to regain some of that momentum just before entering the half.”
“I am very proud, though, of my team for continuing to compete throughout the game,” McGeorge went on to say. “It took a lot of heart and fight and our kids believed they could win the game and they played until the last snap.”
The Knights scored on a pass from Johnson to Marcell Johnson to shorten the score to 10-6 at the half.
After the break, Knightdale found the end zone on a 38 run by Nate Harvey and then Chris Malone ran in for the two-point conversion, giving them a 14-10 lead.
The Knights built on that lead when Justin Blango intercepted a pass from Walters, which resulted in a one-yard touchdown run my Marquavious Johnson, who also ran in for the extra two points, extending their lead to 22-10.
Heritage piled up 179 yards of total offense, with 93 of those on the ground. Walters completed seven of 23 passes for 86 yards.
Running back Josh Jenkins led the Huskies running game with 49 yards.
The Knights wound up with 199 yards of offense, with 135 of those rushing yardage.
“We still need to become more physical on offense,” McGeorge said. “We are letting people run around us and we are settling for the first person to block. We also have to settle down and be patient.”
“But Knightdale is a very good defensive team so we did make some improvements,” he added.
McGeorge said after the loss to Panther Creek, his team did not practice any differently for Knightdale but said the coaches did try to increase excitement and enthusiasm among the players.
“We did some competitions within the team, to get that winning/competitive mentality back in them,” he said.
Heritage will return home to host East Wake tomorrow (Friday) at 7 pm.
The Warriors, 1-2, lost last week to Millbrook.
“They will be another great opponent,” McGeorge said. “I am expecting a fast game that will have some very physical play.”