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by Becky Kimbrell-Norris
WAKE FOREST — The Heritage High School football team jumped out to a 35-14 halftime lead against visiting Holly Springs and never looked back, beating their guests 49-21.
The win is the first opening one for the Huskies in its short three year varsity history.
“It’s always nice to win your opening game,” said Heritage coach Jason McGeorge.“It is wonderful to do this in front of our incredible fans as the energy they bring to our games is outstanding.”
Heritage started the 2013 season with an offensive show, rolling up over 400 yards of offense. Five different Huskies found the end zone on the ground and in the air.
The defense was just as dominating, holding the Golden Hawks to just over 200 total yards and the Husky’s special teams created some havoc too when they took advantage of a bad snap by Holly Springs and a play later turned the mishap into a touchdown.
“Special teams are so important early in the season,” McGeorge said. “We have been working on special teams for over two weeks and our players understand the importance as well.”
“Now we have to make improvements in all areas of the game, but getting a big play like that in the kicking game did give us a lot of energy,” he added.
Seniors Abdul Sesay and Greg Clifton handled most of the rushing duties for Heritage and both had touchdowns. Clifton also caught a pass for a score.
The Huskies junior quarterback Blake Walters threw 12 times and completed seven of those passes for 200 yards.
“Blake has done a tremendous job his entire time in our program,” McGeorge said. “He has great poise and really understands how our offense works.”
Walters, who was sidelined most of last season with a knee injury said he became more comfortable behind center as the game moved on.
“Even though we have been practicing all summer leading up to this game, it was still a little tough for me starting out because the game speed is something that’s really hard to see in practice,” Walters said.
“But I started feeling confident especially on the last drive before the half when I was able to get in the shotgun and get in the rhythm,” he added.“My offensive line did a great job of protection and I think that really allowed me to settle in as the game went on.”
Heritage, however, got off to a bad start when they fumbled the ball on their first offensive play, which turned into a Holly Springs touchdown just minutes into the game.
“It was definitely first game nerves,” McGeorge said. “We went out trying to run our offense and unfortunately we did fumble. All summer long we worked on continuing to play and not letting one play dictate our game.”
“The players did a tremendous job regaining their composure and playing hard for one another,” he added.
The Huskies tied the game with about one minute left in the first quarter. That’s when the Golden Hawks’ bad snap sailed past the kicker, who tried to punt the ball. Instead senior defensive back Charles Clark picked the ball up and ran it to the Holly Spring two-yard line.
A play later Sesay scored and the extra point kick by Matt Sattler tied the game at 7-7.
“After capitalizing on that, it put our offense in a groove and allowed us to keep the momentum throughout the rest of the game,” Walters said.
On their next drive, the Huskies moved 75 yards in five plays for their second score. Walters completed an 18-yard pass to Jalen Parson with 9:05 remaining in the first half and Sattler’s kick gave Heritage a 14-7 advantage.
Junior linebacker Matt Baker helped set up the Huskies next score as he recovered a fumble and raced to the Golden Hawks 15-yard line. Moments later Sesay ran in from five yards out for the touchdown. Sattler made the point after kick and Heritage was up 21-7.
Holly Springs got on the board again with about three minutes left in the half. Quarterback Will Forrestal threw 26 yards to Jordan Kornegay for the score.
The Huskies, not to be outdone, found pay dirt two more times before halftime. Junior John McCaffity outran Golden Hawk defenders 74 yards to score and Walters connected with Clifton with 11 seconds left, enroute to a 35-14 lead at intermission.
Heritage’s momentum carried over in the second half when they added two more scores.
One came at the end of the third quarter on a pass completion from Walters and senior running back Josh Jenkins scored from 11 yards out.
“I knew Holly Springs would be very good on offense and they did a very good job stopping our offense last season,” McGeorge said.“We did get into a better rhythm offensively this game, which helped us get a lot of points on the board.”
McGeorge added that his defense settled down after the first quarter.
“We did not give them any holes to run through and we did not make any major mistakes on special team’s play, which allowed for us to maintain quality field position,” he said.
“Our defensive unit is the heart of our team,” McGeorge went on to say. “They give us energy and they keep us going. I am very proud of all the young men who played so hard.”
The Huskies will travel to Panther Creek, 0-1, tomorrow (Friday).
The Catamounts lost to Wake Forest, 28-14, in their home opener.
“We have to improve on everything,” McGeorge said. “We have one game under our belts, so the jitters are out of the way and we must play all four quarters.”
“Panther Creek is a very good football team that can score on any play,” he added. “They also have a very physical defense so I am expecting a hard-nosed game.”
Kick-off is scheduled for 7:30 pm.